Good Week for Preemption Law, Bad Week for Home Rule

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posted on January 5, 2011
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In a 5-2 decision on Dec. 29, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Buckeye state's preemption law while shooting down the concept of home rule: the principle in the Ohio Constitution allowing local governments to pass their own laws as long as they don't conflict with state statute. The high court ruling stemmed from the City of Cleveland's challenge to the state's 2007 law that replaced a hodgepodge of local firearms laws and restrictions.

Cleveland's home-rule argument did not prevail in the eyes of the court, however. The majority opinion rejecting the position stated: "A comprehensive enactment need not regulate every aspect of disputed conduct, nor must it regulate that conduct in a particularly invasive fashion."

The Court cited legislation passed in March 2007 (R.C. 9.68), which created "uniform laws throughout the state regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their components, and their ammunition."

The end-of-year ruling in Ohio clears the way for reactivation of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation's lawsuit against the City of Cleveland. That suit seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to stop the city from prosecuting law-abiding gun owners under local ordinances that cover gun ownership and concealed carry. The lawsuit also asks the court to declare 20 different local ordinances unconstitutional due to the state preemption regulation.

In another, unrelated, home-rule case, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department ruled 4-0 on Dec. 28 that Nassau County's ordinance banning handguns in "non-traditional colors" (such as pink) is preempted by the state's handgun licensing law.

Because the ordinance prohibits licensed persons from other New York counties from entering Nassau County with their licensed non-traditional colored handguns, the Court ruled it "places a restriction on all licenses granted throughout the state."

Further, the ruling concluded: "If each of New York's 62 counties enacted ordinances that placed additional restrictions on licenses, as the amended ordinance effectively does, the uniformity in firearm licensing that the Legislature intended would be destroyed."

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