- Columbus, Ohio, is pushing ahead with legislation that would restrict the use of guns in the city by limiting magazine size — large capacity magazines that accept 30 rounds of ammunition. The legislation would also restrict people from selling guns to people who have been prohibited from accessing them and penalizes the unsafe storage of all firearms when the owner should reasonably know a minor could gain possession of it.
- According to Mayor Andrew Ginther during a press conference on Wednesday, the city is also exploring additional restrictions on “assault-style weapons,” universal background checks and “red flag laws” that would allow a judge to take away someone’s gun if there is suspicion that they may harm themselves or someone else.
- City leaders believed they had the right to pass the gun legislation following a recent Ohio Supreme Court that declared a state preemption law unconstitutional since it restricted home-rule authorities. “Gun violence is a public health crisis,” said Ginther. “It is time to act.”
Following years of mass shootings and rising gun violence, momentum for new laws that restrict the use and possession of certain guns has grown in recent years. Earlier this year, the Biden administration signed the first major piece of gun-related legislation in decades, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provides new funding for states to run crisis intervention programs and red flag programs.
However, short of even more comprehensive federal legislation, some U.S. cities have been finding new and creative ways to restrict the use and possession of guns. In January, for instance, San Jose, California, passed a first-in-the-nation rule requiring insurance and annual fees for gun ownership.
Now Columbus is forging ahead with its new restrictions.
In 2007, Ohio passed a state preemption law prohibiting cities from regulating firearms. However, earlier this year, Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that state laws restricting Dayton, Ohio’s ability to use automated traffic cameras unconstitutionally violated home-rule powers. Following that decision, a judge last week temporarily blocked a portion of the state’s firearm preemption law that prevented Columbus from restricting guns.
The preliminary injunction gave the city an “important window of opportunity” to come up with a legislative strategy to address gun violence and safety, said Zack Klein, Columbus City Attorney, during a press conference on Wednesday.
“The Ohio Supreme Court changed the way that it looked at state preemption and home rule. And that gave the city of Columbus an opportunity to challenge this particular firearm preemption law, and we have been successful,” said Klein.
Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told the Columbus Dispatch that the city is misinterpreting the court ruling that granted a preliminary injunction against the state’s gun law, saying his group does not believe the city has the authority to pass gun control laws — only the state does. Rieck said he fears the city would go on to make even more sweeping gun control laws.
According to Ginther, 91% of homicides committed in the city last year involved a firearm, and more children died by guns than in traffic accidents, a first-time occurrence in 2020 and 2021. In addition, the city’s police department has confiscated nearly 3,000 guns this year, including nearly 200 assault-style weapons, Ginther added, calling them “weapons of war.”
“There’s been plenty of talk, there’s been plenty of study, there’s been plenty of debate,” said Ginther. “Gun violence is robbing our city of our most vital asset. Our people.”
Gun laws still need city council approval, but several members supported the legislation at Wednesday’s press conference.