Ohio Capital Sues to Block Amendment to State Gun Laws

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – The city of Columbus claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against Ohio that changes to statewide gun laws interfere with city regulations to curb gun violence and violate other state laws giving cities the authority to govern their affairs. 

Columbus says in the complaint filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas that an amendment to a measure regulating Ohioans’ gun rights is unconstitutional and favors gun-rights advocates who want less restrictive laws.

During a lame-duck session, the Ohio General Assembly voted in December to override outgoing Governor John Kasich’s veto of the amended House Bill 228, which he said would likely run afoul of the Ohio Constitution’s Home Rule Amendment and the separation of powers doctrine. The amendment allows cities to make local laws and regulations.  

Gun-rights advocates supported the bill. In a November article, the group Buckeye Firearms Association said HB 228 would eliminate the “duty to retreat” if a crime victim was between their home and car as well as a provision requiring licensed gun holders to carry two pieces of ID when in possession of a firearm, and would relax other restrictions.

Buckeye Firearms Association noted that the bill had the support of several other gun groups, including Ohioans for Concealed Carry, and the National Rifle Association.  

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein seeks an injunction that prevents the state from enacting the law, which is expected to go into effect on March 28.

“We are still reviewing the lawsuit, but the General Assembly acted constitutionally,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office said in a statement. “This office will fulfill its statutory duty to defend the law.”

But Klein said that it is “critical” that Ohio cities are allowed to tailor laws to their communities.

“In this era of heightened gun violence and mass shootings, we cannot allow the state to strip cities of our authority to pass laws that best serve the needs of our residents,” Klein said in prepared remarks. 

The city responded to gun violence by enacting “commonsense firearms ordinances,” according to the 12-page complaint. But it says it also had to repeal an assault weapons ban because of the threat of legal action arising from Ohio Revised Code 9.68, the provision that enshrines Ohio residents’ gun rights.

Columbus says it expected another legal challenge under the change to local gun controls it passed in May 2018.

“The City of Columbus has in the past, currently does in the present, and will, in the future, choose to exercise its constitutionally protected right to pass ordinances aimed at regulating firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories,” the lawsuit states. 

More than 39,700 people were killed by firearms in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 1,589 of them were killed in Ohio. That year there were 143 homicides in Columbus, according to the lawsuit. 

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