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Columbus sues Ohio over firearm restrictions

The lawsuit claims that the state has overstepped its authority with laws that could prevent municipalities from enacting certain firearm restrictions.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) — The City of Columbus filed a lawsuit on Wednesday claiming that Ohio laws prevent it from enacting common sense gun reforms.

The lawsuit takes aim at two Ohio laws dealing with weapons.

In December 2022, Columbus passed an ordinance mandating the safe storage of firearms in situations in which the firearm could be accessed by a minor.

According to the lawsuit, Ohio law has no specific requirements for the safe storage of firearms and the city law makes it a misdemeanor offense if a minor not under the care of the gunowner is able to access a stored firearm and cause injuries.

Currently, Ohio law only explicitly allows a prosecutor to bring charges against a parent or guardian whose child accesses a firearm and injuries themselves or another.

The city’s law contains other provisions, including a ban on high-capacity magazines and purports to close loopholes in the so-called “strawman” purchasing of a firearm. Generally, a strawman purchase refers to a firearm transaction where a second person agrees to buy or acquire the firearm for someone else.

Columbus unanimously passed the law and Mayor Andrew Ginther signed it on Dec. 6, 2022. The new law was later amended to fix a drafting error and to give owners of high-capacity magazines until July 1, 2023, to dispose of them.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Ohio's Senate Bill 156 does not block its ordinances from being in full effect. SB 156 blocks Ohio cities from outlawing the carrying of knives but also contains language that could be understood as voiding the city's firearm restrictions, the plaintiffs claims.

Another part of the lawsuit pertains to a Columbus ordinance that governs the use of power by city officials during emergency situations, including riots and weather events. It also allows for the suspension of the sale of alcohol and firearms in affected areas.

However, the state passed a law in December 2022, which the lawsuit claims specifically prohibits any political subdivision, elected or appointed officials or employee of the state from prohibiting the sale and transportation of firearms.

“Thus, Ohio law now attempts to prohibit a mayor or other local official from prohibiting the sale of firearms or ammunition at times of mob action,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, Ohio law now goes so far as to allow individuals who live in an emergency quarantined area to bring friends into the riot zone so their friends can also purchase firearms and ammunition.”

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein released a statement in support of the lawsuit.

“We know what it takes to make our neighborhoods safe: police, prosecution, people, and the political will to enact effective gun laws. Here in Columbus, we’re investing in these things and enacting the kinds of laws that will make a difference, but state officials continue to intentionally make it harder for police to do their job and for the City to take the actions we know will promote responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods—the actions people in neighborhoods from the Short North to Linden are asking for,” said Klein. 

The Office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost declined a request for comment on the lawsuit, but voiced support for the constitutional rights of Ohioans.

"However, local ordinances that violate citizens’ constitutional rights are simply against the law," said Bethany McCorkle, the communications director for The Ohio Attorney General's Office.

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