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Court Upholds State Law Limiting City Gun Control

(CN) - The Ohio Supreme Court reversed a ruling that struck down a state law preserving Ohioans' right to bear arms, finding that the legislation did not trample on the home-rule powers of cities like Cleveland with gun laws.

The Ohio General Assembly passed an ordinance in 2006 holding that only federal or state regulations could limit Second Amendment rights.

Cleveland filed suit against the state since the new ordinance would wipe out Cleveland's gun laws, including regulations on children's access to firearms, handgun registration, possession and sale of assault weapons, and possession of weapons in public places or on private property.

The city argued that the state law was unconstitutional because it violated the city's home-rule rights and the single-subject provision of the constitution.

While the trial court ruled in the state's favor, the Cuyahoga County appeals court overturned the decision and ruled in favor of Cleveland.

A full panel of the Ohio Supreme Court heard the case in October, and ruled 5 to 2 on Wednesday to tip the scales back in favor of the state.

The court found that many of Cleveland's regulations are made redundant by federal gun laws, such as those that proscribe where guns can be carried and who can carry them. Schools, courthouses, minors and felons, are all named exceptions, for example.

The challenged law "establishes police regulations rather than limiting municipal legislative power," Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote in the court's majority opinion.

"The fact that some states have more regulations than Ohio does not warrant a conclusion that Ohio's statutory scheme for regulating firearms is not comprehensive," Stratton wrote.

"Absent a uniform law throughout the state, law-abiding gun owners would face a confusing patchwork of licensing requirements, possession restrictions and criminal penalties as they travel from one jurisdiction to another," the ruling states.

Stratton remanded the case to the appellate court for a ruling on whether the law violates the state constitution's one-subject issue, which the county appeals court had previously disregarded as moot.

Chief Justice Paul Pfeifer, joined by Justice Yvette McGee Brown, dissented with the ruling, stating that the Cleveland ordinances did not violate the state law since the regulations are not in conflict with one another.

"I conclude that the General Assembly is incapable of casting a preemption blanket over an entire field," Pfeifer wrote.

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