Delaware County judge halts Columbus safe firearm storage, magazine limit ordinances
Photo by Aristide Economopoulos for New Jersey Monitor/States Newsroom.
A Delaware County Common Pleas judge has issued an injunction against two gun-related ordinances enacted by the city of Columbus: one for safe storage of firearms, and another limiting gun magazine capacities.
The injunction prevents the city from enforcing the laws while the lawsuit is pending. The lawsuit at the center of the case was filed by The Buckeye Institute, a think tank acting on behalf of five John and Jane Doe plaintiffs.
Columbus’ ordinances prohibit magazines with 30 or more bullets, criminalizes straw sales, and requires gun owners store firearms safely. The legislation also adds language to negligent homicide and assault charges. If a minor gains access to a firearm, the gun owner could be charged if they weren’t storing the weapon safely.
The filing in Delaware County marked the third Ohio county to hear the dispute.
Late in 2018, Ohio lawmakers overrode then-gov. John Kasich’s veto of House Bill 228. Among other firearm provisions, the measure preempted local laws regarding gun control. Columbus sued shortly after, but the case sat in limbo for years. Last November, a Franklin County judge granted a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the state preemption provisions while the case proceeds.
Attorney General Dave Yost filed an appeal in the Tenth Circuit. But with the preemption language on hold, the city of Columbus passed its gun ordinances in early December. Yost then filed another case in Fairfield County aiming to block those local changes.
In January, a Fairfield County judge denied Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the Columbus ordinances from taking effect. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein then announced that the new codes would go into effect at midnight the next day.
This week, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gromley ruled that, even though less than 1% of Columbus residents live in Delaware County, his court was an appropriate venue. Gromley pointed to Delaware County land annexed by the city of Columbus over the years.
Gromley said he issued the injunction in favor of the plaintiffs because he believes they are likely to succeed in their complaint that the ordinances violate their right to bear arms under the Ohio Constitution.
Attorney General Yost commended the ruling by saying, “The injunction rightfully puts the city’s heavy-handed ordinances on hold while the merits of this case continue to be argued. The judge’s determination that the ordinances violate state law and likely violate the Ohio Constitution is a welcome decision for all who want to prevent government overreach and protect their constitutional rights.”
Yost said his office is continuing their own litigation in the Franklin and Fairfield county cases.
On April 11, Columbus City Attorney Klein shared a video from a recent safe storage case that shows a Columbus toddler finding a firearm in a living room couch and “fires it aimed at his face” but misses. After the parents come into the room, one finds the gun still on the couch and discharges it as well. Klein said that his office got its first guilty plea under the law in that case.
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