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Court: Cleveland's gun laws fail due to conflict with state law

The Ohio Court of Appeals has just ruled that Cleveland's 2015 ordinances meant to restrict gun violence are unconstitutional. The reason is that the Ohio Constitution, like that of the United States, holds that state laws are superior to local ones. Local laws may only augment the protections of state law and the state constitution, but local laws cannot be opposite to state laws.

When Cleveland passed the ordinances it was seeking to "increase regulations that limit discharge of weapons, increase awareness regarding the presence of weapons in school zones, promote law enforcement officer safety and most importantly...keep weapons out of the hands of children," according to court records.

Among the 13 ordinances passed that year were one creating a gun offender registry and another requiring certain parties to make police reports about any guns found on school property. Problematically, the definitions of "dangerous ordnance" and "automatic firearm" included weapons and ammo that are legal under state law.

In fact, the city conceded that in court. The trial court then stuck those definitions and inserted compliant ones.

The advocacy group Ohioans For Concealed Carry, Inc., filed a lawsuit claiming that remedy was not allowed. The Court of Appeals agreed. "A court may not invade the province of the legislature and violate the separation of powers by rewriting a statute or ordinance," reads the opinion.

Overall, the ordinances conflicted enough with state law that they could be upheld. "Municipalities may not exercise their police powers in a manner that conflicts with the general laws of the state," the opinion goes on, "because the ordinances place restrictions on conduct that the state has authorized, they conflict with the general laws of the state."

Two ordinances did survive. One is a ban on the sale of firearms to intoxicated people and the other bans sales to minors. These were constitutional because they were in line with existing state law.

If you have been charged with violating any Cleveland weapons ordinance, it's important to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand whether the ordinance is still valid. Any time you have questions about a criminal case, please don't hesitate to reach out.

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