2A Advocates Win, Ohio Court Upholds Firearms Preemption Law


The fight over Ohio's firearms preemption law has lasted for well over a decade, but gun owners in the Buckeye State got some good news on Wednesday when an appellate court rejected the city of Cincinnati's argument that it should be able to pass and enforce its own local gun control measures under its home rule powers. 


Ohio's legislature first adopted a firearms preemption statute in 2007, and the state Supreme Court upheld the law in 2010 after several cities sued to block enforcement. That should have settled the matter, but the legislature went back and revised the preemption law (adding more protections for gun owners) in 2018, which gave cities like Cincinnati another opportunity to argue that the law treads on their power to implement gun control ordinances in the name of public safety. 

Columbus and Cincinnati both adopted gun control measures with an eye towards a court challenge, and Cincinnati was able to start enforcing its "lost or stolen" ordinance and a storage mandate after Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Branch granted an injunction blocking enforcement of the firearms preemption statute. Today, the First District Court of Appeals found that Branch was in error in granting the injunction, though they reserved judgment about the conflict between the state's Home Rule Act and the preemption law. 

The panel took issue with the fact that Branch issued a preliminary injunction until almost four years after the revised preemption law took effect, noting that "the concept that an order does not modify the status quo because the underlying law has been contested in some fashion from the start must yield to the reality that the amended law has been in effect for years." Most importantly, however, the panel concluded that Branch erred when she determined that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their arguments at trial. 


Ultimately, then, we conclude that under City of Canton, especially as applied in City of Cleveland (2010), Amended R.C. 9.68 is a “general law” for the purposes of the Mendenhall Home Rule Amendment analysis. Accordingly, at this preliminary stage in the proceedings, the City has not established by clear and convincing evidence that Amended R.C. 9.68 violates the Home Rule Amendment and that the state statute does not take precedence over any local firearm regulations that conflict with it.

Now, this isn't the end of the lawsuit, but it does mean that Cincinnati can no longer enforce the local ordinances it adopted last year, at least for the time being. The lawsuit will continue in Branch's courtroom, and the city can appeal the appellate court's decision to the state Supreme Court if it chooses. 

I'm hoping that Cincinnati officials will do just that, given that the state Supreme Court has already upheld the original firearms preemption statute once before. The best way to stop these cities from implementing local infringements on the right to keep and bear arms is to make it clear that they don't have the power to do so, and the state Supreme Court could soon have the opportunity to smack down Cincinnati, Columbus, and other cities looking to violate the state's preemption law... and our Second Amendment rights. 


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