Appeals Court Tosses Cleveland Gun Regulations

(CN) – Some of Cleveland’s recently enacted gun laws, including the establishment of a gun-offender registry and a requirement to call police about guns on school property, are unconstitutional because they conflict with state law, an Ohio appeals court ruled.

Cleveland passed legislation in 2015 aiming to “increase regulations that limit discharge of weapons, increase awareness regarding the presence of weapons in school zones, promote law enforcement officer safety and most importantly…keep weapons out of the hands of children,” according to court records.

Ohioans For Concealed Carry Inc., or OFCC, challenged the law’s constitutionality, and the trial court agreed that two of the city’s new ordinances were unlawful.

The city conceded to the trial court that its definitions of “automatic firearm” and “dangerous ordnance” violate state law because they include legal semi-automatic weapons.

OFCC appealed the trial court’s approval of the city’s other new ordinances, based on the state’s definition of an automatic firearm, which was modified by the trial court.

“OFCC claims that by changing the definitions of the terms ‘automatic weapon’ or ‘automatic firearm’ and ‘dangerous ordnance,’ the trial court made changes to the legislation that constituted a violation of the separation of powers. We agree,” Judge Sean Gallagher of the Ohio Court of Appeals wrote in an April 27 opinion. “A court may not invade the province of the legislature and violate the separation of powers by rewriting a statute or ordinance.”

Gallagher also agreed with OFCC’s challenge to the validity of 11 other city ordinances, which include the creation of a gun-offender registry and the prohibition of weapons on school property, with certain exceptions, that also creates a duty to notify police if weapons are found on school grounds.

“Municipalities may not exercise their police powers in a manner that conflicts with the general laws of the state,” he wrote. “Because the ordinances place restrictions on conduct that the state has authorized, they conflict with the general laws of the state.”

Two of Cleveland’s gun restrictions were allowed to stand – bans on selling firearms to people who are intoxicated and to minors – because they mirror existing laws passed by state lawmakers.

Gallagher ruled in the city’s favor on the taxpayer action of a second plaintiff, Danny McIntosh, finding he failed to submit a written request to the Cleveland law director. The judge also remanded the case to the trial court for a determination of attorney fees.

The city plans to appeal. According to local news reports, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said some of the laws ruled unconstitutional can be changed by editing the definitions of “automatic weapons” and “dangerous ordnances.”

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