The fight over Ohio’s firearm preemption law is likely headed back to the state Supreme Court after the state’s 10th District Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision to grant an injunction against the law’s enforcement, at least as it applied to several local ordinances passed by the city of Columbus.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Mayor Andrew Ginther have been on a mission to undo the preemption law for years now; filing suit in state court back in March, 2019 arguing that the law is unconstitutional. Nearly three-and-a-half years later the city of Columbus was granted a preliminary injunction, which was stayed once the state of Ohio appealed. While the lawsuit was playing out in court, however, the Columbus city council adopted several local ordinances that were in direct contradiction to the preemption law, including a storage mandate for gun owners as well as a ban on ammunition magazines with a capacity of 30 rounds or more.
In its decision overturning the injunction and remanding the case back to trial court for further review, the 10th District panel concluded that Columbus officials failed to prove irreparable injury, harm to others, or public interest in seeking a preliminary injunction against both the original version of the state’s preemption law well as the amended version approved by Ohio lawmakers in 2019. And in a blow to Klein, the decision also points the finger at the city’s “inartful drafting” of its legal arguments as partly to blame for what it determined was the wrong decision by the trial court to grant an injunction.
In addition to its impermissible overbreadth, the second, third, and fourth preliminary injunction factors are not supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record due to the staleness of the information presented in 2019 and the change in status quo since that time. The arguments and evidence presented by the City in 2019 in support of its motion for a preliminary injunction against amended R.C. 9.68 did not clearly and convincingly warrant its issuance in 2022. And the trial court did not address that passage of time in its decision or otherwise address the effect significantly changed circumstances had on its analysis of the evidence and arguments presented in 2019. Furthermore, we find the trial court misstated the burden of proof associated with the third and fourth factors. And, most critically, we find an adequate remedy at law—in the form of a permanent injunction against amended R.C. 9.68 or a declaration of its unconstitutionality following a trial on the merits—was available to the City when the preliminary injunction was issued, especially because the amended version of R.C. 9.68 has already been in effect for three and one-half years. For these reasons, the State’s second assignment of error is sustained.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost applauded the decision in a press release, stating “The court’s ruling assures that all Ohioans must abide by the same law, state law, when it comes to firearms,” adding, “Just like we argued in court, firearms owners statewide should have to follow the same rules.”
Of course, the anti-gun crowd views a uniform standard of gun laws as antithetical to their mission of regulating our right to keep and bear arms to the point that it becomes a privilege to be doled out by our government masters, so they’re not going to wave the white flag now that the 10th District has weighed in. The litigation will likely start all over again, while another case taking on the city’s local gun ordinances is also proceeding in Delaware County. Sooner or later the Ohio Supreme Court, which has already upheld the state firearms preemption law on two separate occasions, will be tasked with once again determining whether the law is constitutional. The anti-gunners are already 0-for-2 at the state’s high court, and thankfully today’s decision should keep these local gun laws from being enforced for the foreseeable future. It’s a little premature to call this a complete victory for gun owners and the rule of law, but the 10th District decision is a very big step in that direction.