OBERLIN — Oberlin City Council is looking to change the city’s ordinance that bans firearms in municipal parks after Oberlin Law Director Jon Clark was notified that the ordinance violates state law.
An email was sent to Oberlin Police Chief Tom Miller on Aug. 2 from Brian Kuzawa, who indicated that the city’s ordinance banning firearms in the park was incorrect. State law gives citizens the right to legally carry firearms in public, and Kuzawa wrote that he, his wife and children would be visiting a park in Oberlin, and he said they would be lawfully carrying their handguns.
“I am hoping that in so doing, we are not accosted by any officers of the City of Oberlin Police Department. Our goal is to enjoy a nice day in the park with our kids,” he wrote in the email.
Another email was sent to City Manager Eric Norenberg and to members of City Council that day, asking for a revision of the ordinance. The email was signed by Dave Noice.
Noice, ORC 9.68 compliance coordinator with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said his intention for contacting Oberlin city officials was simply to notify them that the city’s ordinance was illegal. He said the ordinance puts Oberlin in the position to be sued.
Noice said he contacted the city after he was notified in an Ohioans for Concealed Carry online forum that its ordinance was not valid.
“It’s a matter of legal standing. You can’t have this law, so change, it. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “As long as it’s a state law and they’re complying with it, I’m OK with it.”
Ohioans for Concealed Carry sued the city of Clyde in 2008 after the city prohibited licensed handgun owners from carrying concealed handguns in Clyde city parks. The city of Clyde appealed the ruling that its ordinance was unconstitutional, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohioans for Concealed Carry.
Revisions to the ordinance were discussed during a City Council meeting Monday. The ordinance was passed during a first reading, but a second reading needs to be held.
The previous ordinance, passed Sept. 8, 1998, states “Possession or discharge of any type of firearm, knife, switchblade, bow and arrow, airgun, paintball gun, BB gun, gas or spring-operated gun, slingshot, missile throwing device or other offensive weapon is strictly forbidden. Throwing stones or other missiles is also not permitted.”
Clark recommended to City Council that the ordinance be revised to add that “unlawful” possession of a firearm is prohibited. This would mean that those who are prohibited from carrying firearms, such as those who are intoxicated or convicted felons, would be prohibited from doing so, but people who legally own a gun can carry it.
He stressed that revising the ordinance would not mean that people could now fire weapons in the park.
Clark said, although the city’s ordinance states that firearms are prohibited in the park, he said the rule hasn’t been enforced since 2007, when the Ohio General Assembly enacted Ohio Revised Code Section 9.68, pertaining to the need to provide uniform laws with respect to the regulation of firearms. It states that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that predates the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution.
The code also states, “ … the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to any person, group, or entity that prevails a challenge to an ordinance, rule, or regulation as being in conflict with this section.”
Clark said there is a need to bring the ordinance up-to-date, despite some protests from residents, who were concerned about the proposed revision.
“I think the issue is that people are alarmed because they never realized that people are allowed to carry guns in the park,” he said. “The real change in the ordinance is that people aren’t allowed to unlawfully carry a firearm … It’s really just a housekeeping manner. Our laws need to be consistent with state laws, at least in regard to firearms.”
A second reading on the ordinance will be during Oberlin City Council’s next meeting Sept. 3.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.