Why Ohio's Court Ruling On Bump Stocks Is Meaningless

There are a number of places that, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, began banning the controversial bump stocks. As per usual, gun rights groups launched lawsuits to challenge the law.

Then the ATF reversed their decision on bump stock, thus making all state and local laws redundant.

The lawsuits, however, didn’t stop. One in Ohio recently made it to the state supreme court.

A divided Ohio Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge to a now-repealed ordinance in Ohio’s capital city banning bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the state’s highest court ruled 4-3 Friday that two Ohio gun-rights groups, Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Buckeye Firearms Foundation, had no standing to sue the city of Columbus.

The court majority decided that the groups had suffered no harm in a case that the justices heard despite the fact that the Columbus City Council had repealed its ordinance a year ago. Officials said that made the case moot but the court disagreed, saying the council could pass the ordinance again in the future.

Now, the court didn’t rule on the validity of the law. They’re simply saying no one had the appropriate standing to file the lawsuit in the first place. As a result, the question of the validity of such bans in the state of Ohio.

In other words, it’s less than useless except as a matter of discussing standing.

Then, of course, even if they had found that the ban was unconstitutional, it wouldn’t have mattered. After all, a state supreme court has no authority over federal regulations. For that, you need the Supreme Court of the United States to rule such bans were unconstitutional. While I’d like to think that they would, until such time as a case is put before them, we’ll never know.

The truth of the matter is that continuing the court case was a waste of resources, in my humble opinion. Even if gun rights activists won, there was absolutely nothing to be gained. Bump stocks weren’t going to suddenly become legal in the state regardless of what the federal government said. That’s simply not how any of that works.

Money spent on the lawsuit–and lawsuits are expensive no matter who is involved–could have been used to rally the troops for elections, work to combat other anti-gun legislation, or any number of other tasks that would have accomplished more in the long-term, up to and including a possible overturn of the ATF’s regulations concerning the devices.

In other words, the decision is newsworthy but ultimately less than meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If it serves any purpose, it might be a fine time to revisit the term “pick your battles.” While I’m not saying capitulation is a winning strategy or anything I do believe it’s far better to step up to a fight you can gain something from winning than waste time and resources on a win that would change absolutely nothing.

Oct 18, 2021 4:30 PM ET