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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2006

Preserve local gun controls

NOT content with having foisted off a concealed-carry law on a reluctant Ohio public, gun advocates in the lame-duck General Assembly have launched a last-minute pre-emptive strike on the concept of local control.

Gov. Bob Taft is to be commended for his declared intention to veto this ill-advised legislation, which would nullify some 80 gun-control laws adopted by Toledo and 19 other cities around Ohio.

By ramming through the bill in the legislature's waning days, the lopsided Republican majority is only proving to Ohioans that it cannot be trusted in a post-election session.

Included among the local measures that would be wiped out are Toledo ordinances restricting Saturday night specials and assault weapons, city handgun licensing regulations (including criminal background checks), and a gun-storage ordinance aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of children.

These are all reasonable regulations supported by most Toledoans, but the Republican majority in the legislature seems eager to thumb his nose at local control.

Gun advocates say the changes are necessary so those who pack weapons under the state's 2004 concealed-carry law won't run afoul of a "patchwork" of local ordinances. The real reason, though, is to water down gun control in Ohio to the lowest common denominator and, ultimately, to the point of irrelevance.

As we have noted before, this duplicitous exercise is ironic in the extreme because the so-called conservatives behind it are the same people who used to howl bitterly about the loss of local control to state regulations involving schools and other matters.

It's also a matter of disrespect by the rural and suburban lawmakers who hold sway in the legislature toward this state's urban centers, where most Ohioans live and where the proliferation of firearms is a daily public-safety concern rather than an ideological abstraction.

Speaking of public safety, the leaders of the Ohio State Highway Patrol seem to be endangering their own troopers in supporting a provision of the bill that would allow motorists to keep weapons concealed inside vehicles rather than display them in plain sight.

Generally, the bill would prohibit local governments from adopting weapons laws that are more restrictive than state or federal law. In addition to Toledo, assault weapons bans and similar ordinances would be overridden in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and a number of other cities.

This pre-emption clause prompted state Sen. Eric Fingerhut to declare that the bill represents "the death of home rule," and he may be right. Most Ohioans, we believe, support reasonable gun-control laws, but their wishes have been systematically disregarded by a legislative majority that rules not through genuine consent of the governed but by virtue of power perpetuated by gerrymandering.

Over the past two years, the concealed-carry law hasn't resulted in the "wild west" scenarios feared by some of its opponents, but neither has it proven to produce the safer, more polite society predicted by gun advocates.

The legislature thus has no valid reason to pre-empt local gun-control ordinances, and Governor Taft should keep his promise to veto the bill when it arrives on his desk.



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