LANCASTER, Ohio (WCMH) – A Fairfield County judge on Friday opened an opportunity for the City of Columbus to enforce its recently passed gun limitations that have been embattled by a lawsuit.
Attorney General Dave Yost, acting on behalf of the state, filed the lawsuit against the City of Columbus arguing that its new gun laws violate the Ohio Constitution. Passed on Dec. 5, the ordinance had three effects:
- Bans civilians from having magazines that can hold 30 or more rounds
- Criminalizes selling guns to people prohibited from having them
- Gives penalties to people found storing firearms in a way that minors can get to them
Yost pushed back, saying the magazine capacity limit violated Ohioans’ right to bear arms, in particular focusing on the widely known ArmaLite AR-15 rifle. Within 10 days of the ordinance’s passage, a Fairfield County judge handed down a temporary restraining order against it. But as Yost sought a preliminary injunction to permanently block the ordinance, Friday’s decision in the case threw a wrench in that plan.
“Plaintiff’s repeated claim that the Columbus City Firearms Ordinances effectively ban AR-15 rifles is actually at odds with the limited evidence presented, which indicated that such rifles could operate with a magazine that holds less than 30 rounds,” presiding Judge Richard E. Berens wrote in his decision.
With the injunction denied, the restraining order placed on Columbus’ gun laws will expire at midnight at the end of Friday. The legislation originally would have taken effect Dec. 15, and City Attorney Zach Klein said it can be enforced beginning Saturday morning.
“Today, the rule of law prevailed, and the biggest winners are the residents of Columbus who want nothing more than to take commonsense and reasonable steps to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our neighborhoods and keep our kids and communities safe,” Klein said in a statement.
The Fairfield County lawsuit is the second legal battle over gun rights that culminated over the City of Columbus’ attempt to impose new safety rules. The city filed a lawsuit in 2019 over a state law, which in part prohibited cities and towns from creating ordinances to limit guns. However, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stephen McIntosh went three years without issuing a ruling on that case.
When Klein followed up by suing the judge in the Ohio Supreme Court in October 2022, McIntosh granted a temporary preliminary injunction against the state law. The attorney general then responded by filing the Fairfield County lawsuit, which Klein claimed was an attempt at shopping for a different outcome.
Berens elaborated further on his latest decision in the ruling document.
“The Ordinances do not constitute a ban on all, or even any particular type of weapons. They do no constitute a ban on carrying or using said weapons for self-defense. The Ordinances limit certain weapon accessories (i.e. large capacity magazines) and how weapons can be stored. Plaintiff may be able to ultimately show such restrictions violate the Ohio Constitution but has not demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that they are likely to be able to do so at this point in time.”Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge Richard Berens
The judge did note, however, that his decision would not be the final part of this lawsuit.
“The Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown that the public interest will be served by the injunction,” Berens wrote. “The Court may presume the injunction would be in the public interest if the injunction were to prevent a likely constitutional violation, but as Plaintiff has not shown a likely constitutional violation, the Court cannot make such an assumption.”
On behalf of Yost’s office, spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle shared the following response regarding today’s ruling with NBC4.
“We will seek appellate review in this decision and are reviewing the appropriate mechanisms to do so,” McCorkle said.