On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Ohio refused to hear an appeal by the City of Cleveland to an intermediate appellate court ruling that invalidated several of Cleveland’s gun control ordinances under the Ohio firearm preemption statute. The decision brings to an end a long-running dispute over the validity of the ordinances and represents a major win for the Buckeye State’s gun owners. What’s unlikely to end, unfortunately, is the political grandstanding by Cleveland’s antigun politicians, with Mayor Frank Jackson having previously indicated that “corrective language” for the ordinances has already been proposed to the city council. The case is Ohioans for Concealed Carry, Inc. v. City of Cleveland.
Ohio passed its firearm preemption law in 2006. It states that the “right to keep and bear arms” is a “fundamental individual right” that is “constitutionally protected … in every part of Ohio … .” It also provides for “uniform laws throughout the state regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their components, and their ammunition.” The statute additionally grants those who successfully challenge local ordinances as being in conflict with state law the right to recover costs and reasonable attorney fees for bringing the action.
Cleveland first launched an unsuccessful lawsuit to have the preemption statute invalidated. That effort was rebuffed by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2010.
Nevertheless, in 2015, Cleveland brazenly enacted a slate of local gun control laws that in many cases exceeded the state’s own regulation of firearms. It was the very sort of action prohibited by the state preemption law, and pro-gun Ohioans warned the city that it faced certain legal action if it went ahead with the legislation. Yet council members ignored the warnings, even as they acknowledged the limited utility of the laws. Cleveland.com reported, for example: “Council President Kevin Kelley said that the legislation was not designed to stop gun violence. Rather, it is a reflection of council's values and is good public policy intended to encourage responsible gun ownership.”
That expression of values will now cost Cleveland taxpayer’s dearly, as the city will be responsible for the plaintiffs’ fees and costs in the long-running case.