OBERLIN, Ohio — A campus community with a liberal reputation is getting ready for a battle over a city park weapons ban that conflicts with a state law.
The city council in Oberlin southwest of Cleveland is reluctantly considering a change to its law that bans firearms in city parks. A state law permits guns in most public places, including parks.
If City Council does not rescind the measure, gun owners can take the city to court. Cleveland lost a similar fight over a guns-rights issue in 2010.
About 36 guns-rights advocates picnicked in an Oberlin park on Saturday to underscore the issue.
Oberlin City Council President Ron Rimbert tells The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that he opposes weapons in city parks but thinks the city has no choice.
“We have a responsibility to our citizens that we don’t get caught up in any litigation. In Oberlin, we’re protective of our family and friends. But this is a state law,” he said.
In August, an Ashland County man notified city police that the state law supersedes the city’s and said he would show up with a weapon in a city park. Brian Kuzawa said Chief Tom Miller called and informed him that it is legal to carry weapons in the city’s parks.
Oberlin Council is expected to decide the issue Sept. 16: it can rescind the local law or prepare for a legal fight.
Doug Deeken, an executive with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the issue is simple: “We don’t want law-abiding citizens getting arrested in Oberlin for an unenforceable law. That’s the crux of the matter.”
Sharon Fairchild-Soucy, a member of council, said her colleagues are opposed to the state dictating what the city can and cannot do, especially when it comes to guns.
“Oberlin does not want people bringing guns into its parks,” she said.
In 2007, Cleveland sued Ohio, claiming that the state law involving guns was unconstitutional because it infringed on Cleveland’s home-rule authority and its ability to adopt and enforce its local laws. Three years later, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the city.