Columbus, Ohio officials hint at local ban on "assault weapons"

Columbus, Ohio officials hint at local ban on "assault weapons"
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Franklin County, Ohio was one of just four counties in the state to vote for Democrat Nan Whaley over Republican Mike DeWine in this year’s governor’s race, and the country seat (and state capitol) of Columbus looks like it’s going to be the new base of gun control activism in the increasingly red state, at least for the immediate future.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is expected to announce at least one new proposed gun control ordinance today after a Franklin County judge last week granted a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s firearm preemption law in the county, at least to some degree. Columbus officials are seizing on that decision to move forward with putting new anti-gun ordinances on the books, and while we don’t yet know what the mayor will propose, one official is hinting that the city council may go big with their new restrictions.

City attorney Zach Klein said an assault weapons ban and mandatory gun safety locks are two measures that could be considered.

While crime in Columbus is down nearly 40% compared to last year, Klein said the judge’s ruling will allow the city to bring that number down even further.

The Buckeye Firearms Association, a pro-gun lobbying group, said the judge’s ruling is “another attempt by the City of Columbus to override state law and pass gun control laws they have no right to pass.”

 According to the Buckeye Firearms Association, Klein and other officials are ignoring what the judge’s order actually said and trying to expand his ruling to encompass any and all gun control ordinances the city wants to put in place.

“Our reading of this ruling is that it is narrowly focused on the issue of municipal zoning for firearm manufacturers,” said Dean Rieck, Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association. “It is NOT a green light for Columbus or other cities to pass gun control laws.”

The ruling says this:

The Court agrees that R.C. 9.68 unconstitutionally infringes upon the Plaintiff’s right to exercise its zoning powers. Paragraph (D) specifically permits municipalities to regulate the sale (emphasis added) of firearms, firearm components or ammunition for firearms in areas zoned for residential or agricultural uses. It does not specifically grant municipalities zoning to limit gun manufacturing in areas zoned residential and agricultural.

This deals with firearms manufacturers setting up shop in a residential neighborhood only. The ruling in no way negates Ohio Revised Code 9.68 or preemption in general. Ohio cities do not have the legal ability to regulate firearms, firearm components, ammunition, or knives.

“City Attorney Zach Klein is being irresponsible,” said Rieck, “when he says otherwise.

“He was recently quoted in a news story, saying ‘An assault weapon ban is something that the city of Columbus can now consider and I would support that.’ But this ruling does not simply wipe away preemption and he knows that.

“The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled specifically that Ohio’s preemption statute is valid law and a lower court judge cannot simply sweep that away. There may be a case concerning the narrow issue of whether cities can zone to prevent firearm manufacturers from locating in residential neighborhoods, but that is all.”

We’ll see later today what tricks the Columbus mayor and city attorney have up their sleeves, but I’m honestly kind of hoping they move forward with their plan for a local gun ban. Not only would that provide an opportunity for the state Supreme Court to once again weigh in and smack down a locality for violating the state’s firearm preemption law, but it would also be a chance for Ohio courts to rule on the constitutionality of banning commonly owned firearms in use for a variety of lawful purposes. Interestingly, one of the Republican justices on the state Supreme Court won the race for chief justice on Tuesday, which means that DeWine will get to appoint her replacement to the bench and likely tip the scales further in favor of the gun owners who’ll be challenging any new gun ordinances in the city.

Ideally, of course, Columbus would simply respect the Second Amendment rights of its residents, but apparently Ginther and Klein haven’t learned any lessons from the drubbing that Democrats took in the Buckeye State on Tuesday. Then again, if they’re actually dumb enough to believe that a local misdemeanor prohibiting possession of modern sporting rifles is going to have any impact on violent criminals, that may help explain why they’re doubling down on the same anti-gun extremism that resulted in a double-digit loss for Democrat Nan Whaley in her attempt to become the state’s next governor.