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HomeNewsState
Published: Saturday, 6/12/2004

Concealed weapon ban in parks not enforceable

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Communities that ban people from carrying concealed weapons in parks despite a new state law have misfired, according to state officials.

Such local policies conflict with the state's concealed-carry law and are not valid. Their enforcement could be challenged in the courts, said Kim Norris a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro. "If you are a licensed concealed-carry holder, you should be allowed to carry in a park," she said.

Toledo officials, however, believe the state's guidance does not apply to the city's decision to prohibit guns in its 144 parks.

Toledo relies on its home-rule authority for the power to regulate activities that take place in city parks, rather than specific ordinances with criminal penalties banning the weapons, said Barb Herring, city law director. That's an important distinction, she said. "It is simply our right to control our own property through regulation," she said.

Bob Beasley, another spokesman for the attorney general, said Toledo's strategy remains one that could be fair game for review by the court system. "It's still the same answer. The courts would still have to decide either way you look at it," he said.

The state's concealed-carry law took effect April 8, allowing sheriffs to license individuals to carry a concealed handgun. It bans concealed handguns from churches, schools, and government buildings.

At least three communities have enacted bans on concealed weapons in their parks: Clyde, Elyria, and Arcanum. Clyde, a city of 6,000 in Sandusky County, passed its law in May, but it is not yet enforceable because no signs have been posted, police Chief Bruce Gower said. He said the town plans to make a court filing to support the ordinance.

Bruce Beatty, 48, of Luckey said he intends to urge a repeal of the ordinance in Arcanum, his former home about 30 miles northwest of Dayton, when its Village Council meets June 22. If that doesn't happen, he plans to walk through a park with a concealed weapon.

"They don't have a leg to stand on," Mr. Beatty said. "I'm willing to risk arrest for this because I know I'm right."

In Toledo Area Metroparks, guns are banned in public buildings including restrooms and shelters but allowed in the parks, spokesman Scott Carpenter said. "Our understanding is that we can't usurp the state law," he said.

Nonetheless, metroparks officials think the legislature should amend the law to allow park districts to decide for themselves whether to allow concealed handguns.

Last month state Sen. Ray Miller (D., Columbus) introduced a bill to let local communities ban the carrying of concealed weapons in parks and recreation areas. Hearings on that bill have yet to be scheduled.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6074



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