On November 26, 2019, the City of Cleveland, along with five other cities, filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s new gun law, House Bill 228, set to take effect on December 28, 2019. If allowed to take effect, the bill will amend Ohio Revised Code section 9.68. The cities allege the new bill infringes on the cities’ home rule authority by limiting their ability to regulate the possession, sale, and manufacturing of firearms within their municipalities.

Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution gives municipalities what-is-called “home rule authority,” which gives them the ability to “exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within [its] limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.”

The current version of R.C. 9.68 voids only those municipal ordinances that conflict with state law. However, the proposed changes to R.C. 9.68 will automatically void any regulation relating to the ownership, possession, purchase, acquisition, transportation, storage, sale, transfer, manufacture, or keeping of firearms or ammunition, regardless of whether or not it is in conflict with state law. The cities allege this violates their Article XVIII home rule authority.

The cities further state that the amendments to R.C. 9.68 are unconstitutional because they interfere with municipalities ability to enact local zoning ordinances regulating the manufacture of firearms in residential, commercial, and other non-industrial zoning districts. The cities cite to concerns over gun manufactures setting up shop “in a residential neighborhood next to houses, apartments, or schools.”

The cities seek an injunction that will delay certain provisions from taking effect until the court rules on the constitutionality of those provisions. The cities are also seeking declaratory judgment to help clarify legal uncertainty surrounding the application of the new law. However, as of now, the new law will still take effect on December 28th.

The lawsuit is another in a series of disputes between local and state lawmakers over the ability to regulate firearms throughout the State of Ohio. Many will remember Cleveland v. State, 2010-Ohio-6318 (2010), where the Ohio Supreme Court originally upheld the current version of R.C. 9.68 as a general law of the state, allowing the General Assembly to pre-empt all local ordinances regarding firearms which conflict with state law.

Ohio municipalities should also be aware that the law includes a provision that allows gun owners who believe their rights have been violated to sue a municipality and seek damages. Attorneys at Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff LLP advise public entities on home rule authority and compliance with state law. If you have any questions, please contact us at info@fisheldowney.com or call 614.221.1216.