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Published: Thursday, 6/10/2004

CONCEALED carry Local bans on guns clash with state law


COLUMBUS - Several Ohio communities have banned people from carrying hidden weapons in their parks, which the state says conflicts with a new state law that allows a person with a license to do so.

Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, said the local ordinances are not valid. She said enforcement of those laws could be challenged in the courts by a private citizen or group. "If you are a licensed conceal-carry holder, you should be allowed to carry in a park," she said.

At least three communities have enacted bans: Elyria and Clyde in northern Ohio and the west Ohio village of Arcanum.

Barbara Young, an Arcanum Village Council member, said she does not think that the local law approved May 25 conflicts with state law. She said the village enacted the law because its main park sits next to schools.

"The mayor wanted it to kind of expand and give police authority in the parks and because of the adjacent schools," she said. "It was done basically for the safety of the community."

Police Chief Dan Light said officers haven't yet had to enforce the ordinance in the community of 2,200. "We have almost no violent crime," he said.

Ken Hanson, chair of the litigation section for Ohioans for Concealed Carry Inc., a group that pushed for approval of the new state law, said he has told Arcanum officials that their ordinance violates state law.

Police already have authority to arrest people in the park if they are threatening someone, selling drugs, or committing other offenses, Mr. Hanson said.

"There is no demonstration whatsoever that there is a need for the ordinance," he said. "If these things go unchallenged, other cities are going to be emboldened by it."

John Mahoney, deputy director of the Ohio Municipal League, said reaction has been mixed among Ohio's municipalities to the state law, approved in April. He said that if local ordinances survive a court challenge, other communities might try to follow suit.

"Whether it's a trend or not depends on what happens from here," he said. "It will be a question of our home-rule powers against statutory powers. In some cases home rule trumps, and in some cases it doesn't."

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

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