Cleveland Tried to Blame Freedom—Court Said No

posted on February 6, 2018

The Cleveland City Council in 2015 was considering passing a long list of onerous gun control laws. The council members were thinking of doing this despite the fact that in 2005 the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation preempting cities and villages from passing gun laws that go further than state statutes.

“We went to Cleveland’s City Council at the time and told them they’d already lost,” said Doug Deeken, a director with Ohioans for Concealed Carry. “We reminded them that we get reasonable attorneys’ fees when we win and told them we would sue and that they’d end up paying our lawyers.”

The Cleveland City Council went ahead with its wish list of laws blaming freedom for the actions of criminals anyway. And, just as they said they would, Ohioans for Concealed Carry sued—and won.

The 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland ruled last year that almost all of the ordinances passed by the city conflicted with state laws, and so the court tossed them out. Cleveland appealed. Now the Ohio Supreme Court has refused to take up Cleveland’s appeal, meaning that the lower court’s ruling stands.

“It was a big win for us and for freedom,” said Deeken. “Right now we’re waiting for the lower court to decide what the reasonable attorneys’ fees will be for Cleveland to pay our lawyers.”

Under the state’s pre-emption law, the court struck down all of the ordinances that went beyond state law. While this was a huge win for law-abiding gun owners, not everyone in the Buckeye State is happy with the decision.

“I disagree with the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the city of Cleveland’s appeal to uphold its own gun laws,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement. “The laws the city proposed and that were enacted by our City Council are reasonable and do not conflict with any state gun regulations.”

The city’s attorney should have been capable of informing the mayor that, per Ohio Laws and Rules 9.68, all firearm laws in Ohio—except those restricting the discharge of firearms and certain zoning regulations—supersede any local ordinances.

And, yes, Section B of the Ohio laws reads: “In addition to any other relief provided, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to any person, group, or entity that prevails in a challenge to an ordinance, rule, or regulation as being in conflict with this section.”

Despite the law’s clarity, the Cleveland City Council passed its gun restrictions nearly unanimously, with only Councilman Zack Reed voting against it. At the time, Reed argued that the legislation wouldn’t reduce gun violence in the city. He pointed out that Chicago has even more restrictive gun laws, yet that city’s homicide rate is far higher. Reed even challenged others on the Council to explain how this list of gun control laws would have prevented any homicide that occurred that year.

Other councilmen answered Reed with the usual refrain of, “We have to do something.”

Councilman Michael Polensek even said he would vote for the legislation although he didn’t expect it to have any effect on the city’s murder rate.

“I think there are going to be some people who think that as a result of this passage, things will dramatically change in this city,” said Polensek, according to “And they are not, because the bad guys are not turning in their guns. The bad guys are not registering. The kids who want to shoot indiscriminately on the street won’t stop.”

So this package of gun control laws was a stunt from the beginning that predictably cost the city a lot in attorney’s fees.

“This whole thing was designed to make it appear like the Council was addressing the problem,” said Deeken, “when they are not. If they’d stop blaming freedom for the murder rate and instead address the real issues, … then maybe we could all work together to save lives.”


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