Ohio gun rights activists are outraged over the latest attempt to circumvent state law and infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
Ohio Revised Code permits residents with a concealed carry permit to take a firearm into a public park. It also preempts any local ordinances to the contrary. Several years ago a town in Sandusky County was sued because of an attempted concealed carry ban in public parks. The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the gun owners. Now, a similar case is taking shape in the city of Oberlin.
Oberlin is largely known as liberal section of the Buckeye State. The concealed carry battle in the Ohio town began in August when resident Brian Kuzawa emailed Oberlin Police Chief Tom Miller, saying he planned to legally carry his gun into a local park. He also noted that the Oberlin “no guns allowed” in public parks policy violated the Ohio Revised Code.
Following Brian Kuzawa’s email, City Law Director Jon Clark strongly suggested that the Oberlin City Council amend its existing ordinance to mirror state law – or face potential legal action. Clark told the local officials that if an individual with a valid concealed carry permit challenged the local ordinance and stated that their Second Amendment rights had been violated, the individual could be awarded costs and attorney fees by the court.
Following the email and warning by the Oberlin law director, a small group of local gun owners, each with a valid concealed carry permit, met at a local park and wore their guns. The group told local media outlets that they wanted to show city officials and their fellow citizens that they had absolutely nothing to fear. The Ohio gun owners had all passed a strict background check and gun training course.
The Oberlin gun owners arrived with friendly faces and brought their children. Although the park outing did result in some arguments and philosophical debates, the event remained peaceful. Another such event has been scheduled for Sept. 15, just before the next meeting of the Oberlin City Council.
Oberlin City Council President Ron Rimbert said he felt the body had no choice but to change the law.
“I’m not in favor of any of this,” Rimbert said. “No one on council is. But we need to get this passed. 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 state law.”
The city of Clyde in Sandusky County spent approximately $70,000 fighting a losing battle, attempting to curtail the rights of concealed carry permit holders. Despite listening to the warnings about potential lawsuits by the city law director and considering a change to the park ordinance, the city council is also reportedly looking for a way around the Ohio Revised Code concealed carry law.
“Oberlin does not want people bringing guns into its parks,” said Sharon Fairchild-Soucy, a member of Council.
Said Eric Norenberg, the city manager, “One of the biggest frustrations is that our council must act on this when there is clear, local sentiment against it.”
Doug Deeken, an executive with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, said the city needs to follow state law.
“We don’t want law-abiding citizens getting arrested in Oberlin for an unenforceable law,” he said. “That’s the crux of the matter.”