Columbus sues state of Ohio over ability to pass local gun laws

File Photo (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

It's city versus state, in a legal battle over the right of Columbus to restrict guns.

Tuesday the City of Columbus filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio.

The subject of the suit pertains to gun laws, but the issue at the center of the debate is the city's ability to enact those laws.

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Celeste LaCour-Belyn lives daily with the consequences of gun violence.

"On August 11, 2011, I received a call saying that my daughter has been shot," she said.

Leigh LaCour-Belyn was just 18 years old, with dreams of becoming a nurse.

"After a wait of about four and a half hours, I found out my daughter had been murdered, with a gun, by her boyfriend."

It's a tragic outcome Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther says happens too often in our city.

"In 2018, 74 of the 102 homicides were committed by firearms," Ginther said. "This year 17 of 20 were committed (with firearms). That's 85 percent."

In 2018 the city passed laws aimed at reining in gun violence.

"We took painstakingly significant efforts to narrowly tailor a law to make sure that we acted within what the state of Ohio would allow cities to do," said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. "In this instance, it was to ban bump stocks in our community, and it was also to, which I think is the most common sense as it comes, to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence convicts."

Ginther and Klein say House Bill 228, passed by the legislature with enough votes to override Governor Kasich's veto, blocks the city's ability to pass such laws.

"House Bill 228 eviscerates the very basic principle of home rule. It's a blatant attempt to crush our authority as local leaders to pass laws that address the needs of citizens in our community," Klein said.

"Here's the bottom line: the state of Ohio is gutting gun safety laws in Columbus," Ginther said.

"The city is going to spend what 50, 100 thousand dollars on this case? They're going to lose," said Gerard Valentino with the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. "If I was a citizen of the city of Columbus, I would be upset that they are chasing a situation that they know they are going to lose, instead of spending that money on enforcing the gun laws that exist."

Valentino says the city's gun restrictions are more about show than substance.

"They're trying to put laws in place they're never going to enforce. They're doing it as a feel-good thing with no apparent benefit to the city," he said.

Klein says the suit is about more than guns.

"It's home rule and guns today, it could be home rule and the environment tomorrow, home rule and land use. It doesn't matter what the issue is- cities have the ability to govern themselves and do what is best for our citizens."

The Ohio Attorney General's Office will defend the state in the lawsuit.

In a statement, they told 10TV: "We are still reviewing the lawsuit, but the General Assembly acted constitutionally. This office will fulfill its statutory duty to defend the law."

The city’s complaint and motion are available online.

House Bill 228 is set to go into effect on March 28.

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