Dec 7, 2022 - Politics

New gun control laws face legal challenge

Illustration of Columbus City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Major gun control measures passed by Columbus City Council this week will need to withstand an ongoing legal challenge in order to remain valid.

Why it matters: Local leaders say the new laws are necessary to stem record levels of gun violence plaguing our city, while gun rights advocates say the measures are an illegal overstep.

By the numbers: The ordinance notes a 36% rise in juvenile gun violation arrests between 2021 and 2022.

  • One in seven of those arrests occurred when a minor brought a gun to school.
  • More than 90% of Columbus' record 204 homicides last year were committed with a firearm.

The big picture: Council's vote comes amid an ongoing battle between the pro-gun state government and a more liberal City Hall that is desperate to cut down on violent crime.

  • Columbus has sought for years to challenge a state "preemption law" blocking municipalities from enacting stricter gun control policies.
  • The city saw an opening last month when a Franklin County judge temporarily blocked enforcement of that state law as an "unconstitutional infringement upon municipal home-rule."
  • Before Council members could act, that judge halted his own ruling as Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost prepared an appeal.

The latest: Council nevertheless took advantage of what City Attorney Zach Klein called an "important window of opportunity" by passing a slate of "common sense" gun reforms at Monday's meeting.

What they're saying: "It always seems like we're helpless, or hopeless, in the face of a Statehouse that steps in the way of cities doing their part … this piece of legislation pushes back on that whole narrative," Council President Shannon Hardin said.

  • "We are standing up. There is something we can do."

Details: The ordinance prohibits ownership of any "large capacity magazine" guns holding 30 or more rounds of ammunition in most cases, except for use by law enforcement and military.

  • It also expands the criminal definitions of negligent homicide and negligent assault to include storing deadly weapons in a place the owner should "reasonably" know a minor could access.
  • Another section makes it illegal to "recklessly" sell to or purchase a firearm on behalf of someone already prohibited from owning one.

Yes, but: There is continued disagreement as to whether the city can actually enforce the new ordinance while the state's appeal is pending.

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