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Published: 8/13/2004

Clyde is sued over ban on guns in parks

BY MEREDITH HEAGNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

CLYDE - Ohioans for Concealed Carry has sued the city of Clyde for its refusal to rescind a May council decision outlawing concealed weapons in city parks.

Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge Harry Sergeant granted a temporary restraining order yesterday to prohibit the city from enforcing the ordinance, said Ken Hanson, chief counsel for the pro-gun group.

Clyde Law Director Barry Bova said he had not been notified of the restraining order, and Judge Sargeant could not be reached for comment.

But Mr. Bova said the city hadn't been enforcing the ban anyway.

Regardless, Mr. Hanson said the passage of the ordinance ignored state law and that the city is going to cost its constituents thousands of dollars to fight a suit it won't win.

"The state of Ohio has already said that they are allowed in parks," Mr. Hanson said. "No one would seriously argue that someone with an Ohio driver's license couldn't drive on Clyde's streets."

Mr. Bova said he was made aware of the suit yesterday and expects to be officially served with the complaint today. He said the city didn't intend to deny anyone his or her right to carry a concealed weapon as permitted by the state in April.

"We felt that there may be a safety issue with people carrying concealed weapons in parks," he said. No one has been arrested under the ordinance nor have any signs been posted in the parks.

"They want to prevent us from eventually enforcing the statute," he said. "We're not totally surprised that it happened."

Mr. Hanson said that city officials have ignored his group's letters, e-mails, faxes, and phone calls for months. Two weeks ago, the group abandoned its efforts to contact the city and decided to seek relief in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, he said.

Mr. Hanson said the city's safety concerns are unfounded, because there is no evidence that concealed weapons in parks are dangerous. "They've never provided any legal reasoning as far as why they're right and we're wrong," he said.

A spokesman for the Ohio

attorney general's office said the enforcement of local ordinances such as Clyde's can be challenged in court.

"Our interpretation of the law is that [licensed individuals] can carry in a park," Kim Norris said.

State Sen. Ray Miller (D., Columbus) introduced a bill in May to let local communities ban the carrying of concealed weapons in parks and recreation areas. The state Senate has taken no action on the bill.

Mr. Hanson said his group used a letter campaign to convince the western Ohio village of Arcanum to change an ordinance that banned concealed handguns in parks. He hopes a court victory against Clyde will send a message to other municipalities.

"The law is squarely on point and clear," he said. "A municipality cannot prohibit what the state allows."

Toledo prohibits guns in its 144 parks. The city 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.

Contact Meredith Heagney at:

mheagney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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