Cincinnati Leaders Vie to Limit Gun Rights and Declare Preemption Law as Unconstitutional

Democratic leaders in Cincinnati have proposed two new ordinances for City Council’s consideration that aim to extend gun restrictions in the city.

These ordinances come after a Fairfield County judge denied a request from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to block firearm regulations recently enacted by the city of Columbus.

The ordinances, which city leaders have proposed for passage on February 8th, mandate safe storage in areas where children may have access to firearms and forbid the possession of firearms by people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses or those who are the subject of temporary protection orders or restraining orders involving intimate partners or intimate partners’ children. As city ordinances, both of the new charges would be misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison.

Mayor Aftab Pureval (D), Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Kearney (D) and council members Scotty Johnson (D), Meeka Owens (D) and Liz Keating (R) have co-sponsored the legislation.

According to Pureval, gun restrictions are one of his top priorities.

“Keeping residents safe is the top priority of our City government. Gun safety measures save lives, and we will continue to do everything in our power to put an end to gun violence in Cincinnati,” Pureval said.

The safe storage ordinance imposes a requirement that individuals keep “dangerous ordnances” out of reach of children. This includes weaponry such as rifles, rocket launchers, explosive or incendiary devices, blasting agents, and explosive compounds. The ordinance makes some exclusions for certain firearms such as some antique weapons, or guns that are inoperable as long as an individual cannot quickly make them operational again.

The definition of “safe storage” under the ordinance includes both a mechanism mounted directly on a firearm that prevents a user from operating it without first deactivating the device as well as a safe, case, or lock box.

Columbus passed similar legislation in December despite questions of it’s legality.

Yost sought to have the Columbus statute blocked, but a Fairfield County judge last month upheld the restriction. Yost says that the city’s requirements are unreasonable because they make it a crime for people to fail to conceal their firearms in places where even their teenage children couldn’t find them and because they make it impossible for someone to use a firearm for self-defense even if a child lives in the home. According to Yost’s office, “We will seek appellate review in the decision and are reviewing the appropriate mechanisms to do so.”

The domestic violence ordinance aims to prohibit a person convicted of domestic violence or under a court order related to stalking, harassing, or threatening an intimate partner or child from owning a handgun.

The city of Cincinnati has also chosen to spend taxpayer money once more by re-litigating established law, and suing the state of Ohio for it’s “preemption law.” This comes despite the Ohio Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that Ohio’s preemption law on firearms is constitutional and despite the city recently losing a lawsuit over firearms regulations.

Preemption legislation prohibits the regulation of knives, guns, their parts, and ammunition by political subdivisions (such as cities and counties). In the past, Ohio’s gun lobby has successfully sued Cincinnati and other cities to overturn local gun restriction laws. Buckeye Firearms Association used this method to overturn Cincinnati’s ban on bump stocks in 2018.

Ohio is one of 42 states with preemption provisions that set firearms regulation at the state level and forbid municipalities and other political subdivisions from enacting gun control that is more strict than state law.

On January 27th, the city filed a 43 page lawsuit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court seeking that the “preemption law” be declared unconstitutional.

The complaint alleges that Ohio’s “preemption” law forbidding political subdivisions from regulating firearms, their components, ammunition, and knives is unconstitutional and illegal.

The city is asking for both preliminary and permanent injunction against the law.

According to the Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association Dean Rieck, Cincinnati is following the lead of Columbus in ignoring settled law and previous court decisions.

“Just as Columbus’ challenge will eventually be defeated, Cincinnati, too, will lose in court. Either lower courts will decide the matter or, once again, the Ohio Supreme Court will weigh in and remind Ohio’s cities that they have no home rule authority on the matter of Second Amendment rights,” Rieck said.

The practical issue of having a consistent and well-understood set of gun rules rather than a patchwork of inconsistent regulations, according to Rieck, is just as important as the weighty body of precedence supporting preemption.

“If every one of Ohio’s more than 2,000 cities, villages, and townships passed their own gun laws, no one could possibly keep up. Just driving to work, attending church, or going to the grocery could turn you into a law-breaker as you traveled from place to place and crossed municipal boundaries. Ohio solved this problem 16 years ago, but Columbus, and now Cincinnati, seek to sow confusion. And for what? To pass gun laws violent criminals will not obey, and which will accomplish nothing but entrap otherwise law-abiding residents? City leaders should be ashamed of themselves for this blatantly political gamesmanship,” Rieck said.

According to Rieck, Buckeye Firearms Association refuses to “allow rogue cities to eviscerate the progress we’ve made over the last two decades just so they can grandstand and pretend that they’re fighting crime, when all they’re doing is wasting taxpayer dollars on political theater.”

Pureval expects the two ordinances to be presented at the Public Safety and Governance Committee on Tuesday. The full council could vote on the ordinances as soon as February 15th.

Judge Jennifer Branch has been assigned Cincinnati’s lawsuit against the state. Hearings in the case have not yet been scheduled.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Aftab Pureval” by Aftab Pureval. Photo “Jan-Michele Kearney” by Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. Photo “Scotty Johnson” by Scotty Johnson. Photo “Meeka Owens” by Councilwoman Meeka Owens. Photo “Liz Keating” by Cincinnati City Council. Background Photo “Cincinnati Skyline” by Mr. RNGAnderson. CC BY-SA 3.0.



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