Columbus mayor, city council members unveil magazine ban, storage mandate

Columbus mayor, city council members unveil magazine ban, storage mandate
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Columbus, Ohio City Attorney Zach Klein had been hinting that city leaders would go for a local ban on so-called assault weapons after a local judge granted an injunction against the state’s firearm preemption law from being enforced, but modern sporting rifles weren’t a direct target of the three new local gun control measures that Mayor Andrew Gintner and several city council members unveiled on Wednesday afternoon. Indirectly, however, the magazine ban proposed by city officials could impact some Columbus gun owners, and the storage mandate discussed on Wednesday could have ramifications for virtually every gun-owning resident in the city.

City Councilmember Shayla Favor said the proposed legislation will do the following:

1) Define “large capacity magazine” as any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, clip or other similar device that has the capacity of, or can be readily restored or converted to accept, thirty (30) or more rounds of ammunition for use in a firearm. This definition does not include any of the following:

  • A feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than ten rounds of ammunition;
  • A .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device;
  • A tubular magazine that is contained in a lever action firearm;
  • A magazine that is permanently inoperable.

“This legislation will prohibit the possession of a large capacity magazine by anyone other than a federal or state agent or armed services member or a member of state or local law enforcement,” Favor said. “There is no reason for ordinary citizens to possess military-grade weapons.”

2) Promote safe storage of firearms. The legislation will penalize those who fail to exercise due care in storing their firearms when they know or reasonably should know that a minor is able to gain access to them.

“Recognizing that there are residents who are safely storing their firearms, the legislation provides affirmative defenses for negligent homicide and negligent assault when a resident has properly stored their firearm,” Favor said.

3) Stress “straw men sale” of firearms. The legislation will address straw men sales of firearms and the role that they play in guns falling into the hands of the wrong individuals. This legislation prohibits the reckless selling, lending, giving, or furnishing of a firearm to a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm. It will also criminalizes an individual who purchases or attempts to purchase a firearm who intends to sell the firearm to a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

There are three big problems with the city’s announcement. First, the Buckeye Firearms Association argues that the city is misreading the judge’s decision, which the Second Amendment organization says is limited only to municipal zoning for firearms manufacturers and isn’t a green light to pass any and all local gun control measures city officials can dream up.

Ohio cities do not have the legal authority to regulate firearms, firearm components, ammunition, or knives.

“The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled on the matter of preemption and agreed that cities cannot pass their own gun laws,” said [BFA executive director Dean] Rieck.

“In addition, the state legislature has addressed this issue on multiple occasions, making it clear that they want firearms to be regulated at the state level only. This is to assure that there is one consistent set of laws rather than a patchwork of laws to confuse and entrap law-abiding citizens.”

On Nov. 4, the State of Ohio filed a notice of appeal and motion to stay the temporary restraining order issued by Judge McIntosh pending the appeal in the Tenth Appellate District.

And last week, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said this: “The City of Columbus remains part of the State of Ohio and subject to its laws. Ohio will appeal.”

The second issue with the new ordinances is that the magazine ban, at the very least, isn’t likely to survive a court challenge on Second Amendment grounds even on the off chance that the state Supreme Court does uphold the city’s authority to pass local gun laws. The city’s proposed storage mandate is may not survive court scrutiny, but it’s hard to know for sure without looking at the specific language.

Finally, there’s the fact that none of these local ordinances, which come with a misdemeanor penalty, are going to dissuade violent criminals. If someone’s committing an armed robbery or a drive-by shooting, I don’t think they’re going to be too concerned about the possibility of getting a misdemeanor charge for carrying an illegal magazine. Similarly, those who use guns to aid in their criminal enterprises aren’t likely to be all that responsible with their guns, so I doubt that they’ll be prompted to lock them up when they’re not in use because the city has mandated it.

The ordinance dealing with straw purchases is even more absurd. Buying a firearm for someone else is already a felony offense under both federal and state law, so duplicating that crime while reducing the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor has the potential to treat straw buyers less harshly than they are now.

Columbus officials could have announced that they’d be referring all straw buy cases to the local U.S. Attorney’s office for prosecution, but that would go against their real goal here: to destroy Ohio’s preemption laws and impose a host of new infringements on the right to keep and bear arms in the few places in the state where Democrats still hold sway. This isn’t about public safety or fighting crime. It’s about seizing power not given to local officials and abusing it to target a fundamental civil right.