Columbus, Ohio approves magazine ban amid preemption fight

Columbus, Ohio approves magazine ban amid preemption fight
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Amidst an ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s firearm preemption law, city council members in Columbus, Ohio have approved a municipal ban on so-called large capacity magazines and several other local gun control ordinances. At Monday night’s council meeting, members voted 7-0 in favor of the new ordinances, even though there’s a good chance that the new laws will never be enforced.

While there are some constitutional concerns over the magazine ban approved by city council members, the biggest problem the ordinances face is the fact that Ohio has long had a firearms preemption law in place that declares the state legislature, not political subdivisions, have the sole authority to impose regulations on the right to keep and bear arms. Columbus and several other cities have repeatedly challenged the firearms preemption law over the years, failing every time, but a state judge may have opened the door to local gun control ordinances with a recent decision.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Stephen L. McIntosh, who failed to act for some three years on a lawsuit filed by the city of Columbus over the state General Assembly’s passage of a law that leaves the power to regulate guns to the state, finally granted a temporary stay on the state law after the city filed a civil complaint against him with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Within days of that decision, however, McIntosh stayed his previous decision while the state appealed, leaving the legality of city council’s latest action Monday in question.

The law as adopted by the council would:

  • Add to the crimes of negligent homicide and negligent assault “storing or leaving a deadly weapon” in one’s residence in a manner in which a minor could reasonably be anticipated to gain access to it. Storing weapons in a safe, gun case or with a trigger lock would be presumed to have exercised due care. Violators face a third-degree misdemeanor, or — if a juvenile gains access to the weapon — a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Having a weapon on them in their home or in their “immediate control” is not a violation.
  • Ban “large capacity magazines” that can hold 30 or more rounds, or can be converted to accept that many rounds. This misdemeanor would result in a mandatory 180 consecutive days in jail without work release, and potentially up to one year, and a $1,500 fine.
  • Prohibit anyone from recklessly selling, lending, giving or furnishing a firearm to any other person who is known or there is reasonable cause to believe they can’t legally possess it. A violator could face a first-degree misdemeanor.

As far as crime fighting measures go, Columbus’s new misdemeanor ordinances aren’t likely to have much of an impact even if they are upheld by the courts; an outcome that 2A groups like Buckeye Firearms Association say is highly unlikely.

“Columbus has no legal authority to pass gun control laws,” Dean Rieck, Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, said. “This is settled Ohio law that has already been litigated up to the Ohio Supreme Court, which stated that preemption is valid law in all aspects. Plus, 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.”

City officials maintain that, despite the fact that McIntosh’s decision has been stayed, Columbus can proceed with enforcing their new gun laws. With Second Amendment organizations and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost disagreeing with that position, the court fight over firearms preemption is likely to get even more heated in the near future.