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1st Circuit Court Ruling Saves Ohio Firearm Preemption Law By Mark Chesnut

A critical ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit has saved the state of Ohio’s firearm preemption law.

Like many states, Ohio has a law on the books barring municipalities from passing gun laws more restrictive than those that the state has instituted. Such laws are designed to alleviate the pitfall of a gun owners trying to navigate and patchwork of different gun restrictions every time they cross into a different city.

In 2007, Ohio enacted a preemption law prohibiting municipal ordinances from infringing on Ohioans’ rights to “own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition.” The law additionally awards “costs and reasonable attorney fees” to anyone “that prevails in a challenge” to an ordinance that violates the preemption law.

As a little background on the issue, twice—in 2018 and again in 2020—Ohio lawmakers expanded the law to forbid more regulations and to also apply to knives. Since 2010, the state has fought for the law in the courtroom, winning some and losing some.

In 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the original 2007 law in a lawsuit where the city of Cleveland had challenged the statute claiming that it infringed on the city’s municipal home rule authority. Later, Cincinnati filed a similar lawsuit, challenging the 2018 and 2022 amendments, that also argued the law violated free speech and separation of powers.

In City of Cincinnati v. Ohio, the trial court originally ruled in favor of Cincinnati and preliminarily enjoined the 2018 and 2020 amendments. However, when the state appealed the case to the 1st Circuit, that court held that under the 2010 Cleveland case the 2018 and 2020 amendments do not violate the state’s constitutions.

In the ruling, the court stated: “Amended R.C. 9.68 survives this constitutional challenge primarily because the Supreme Court of Ohio largely foreclosed the City’s arguments against it in its decision upholding Original R.C. 9.68 against substantially similar claims.

To the extent the 2018 and 2022 amendments to the law may have altered its preemptive effects and expanded the liability of political subdivisions that act in conflict with it, the City has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that those amendments change the constitutional calculus forged by City of Cleveland (2010). We therefore sustain the state’s sole assignment of error and reverse the trial court’s judgment preliminarily enjoining Amended R.C. 9.68.”

The case has been remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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