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Judge Sides with Yost in Temporarily Halting Implementation of Columbus’ New Gun Ordinances

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A Fairfield County judge has granted Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing Columbus’ newly passed gun ordinances from taking effect.

Judge Richard Berens of Fairfield County Common Pleas Court issued his ruling this morning enjoining the ordinances immediately.

“This request of the court is strictly a matter of the law – as state law supersedes what Columbus is attempting to do here,” Yost said. “The city has knowingly and deliberately overstepped its legislative authority.”

Yost was referring to a set of gun ordinances passed Dec. 5 by the Columbus City Council despite a Franklin County judge’s order weeks earlier staying “all proceedings” related to Columbus’ 2019 legal challenge of an Ohio law mandating statewide uniformity in firearms regulations.

The law (ORC 9.68), passed in 2006 by the Ohio General Assembly, was intended to prevent a patchwork system of conflicting local gun ordinances.

“The issue here is that the legislature has said, ‘We’re going to have a uniform law for the entire state so that citizens don’t have to guess whether they’re breaking the law because they passed a municipal boundary – and that law needs to be enforced,’ ” Yost said. “If we’re going to have changes to Ohio’s gun laws, they need to go through the General Assembly.”

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Two of the Columbus ordinances violate the “uniformity” law.

One bans possession of “large capacity magazines,” making such possession a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum jail stay of 180 days and a maximum of one year. The other makes it a criminal misdemeanor to store a firearm in a way that doesn’t comply with the Columbus City Code, regardless of whether any harm has resulted from the “improper” storage.

The latter violates not only the uniformity law but also Ohioans’ state constitutional right “to bear arms for their defense and security.”

“The individual right to bear arms would be illusory,” Yost’s request for the preliminary injunction said, “if municipalities throughout the state had the power to enact local ordinances or regulations minimizing or circumscribing that right and cause citizens to have to play constitutional whack-a-mole while potentially facing jail time for exercising a fundamental right.”

Although Columbus officials maintain that the home-rule provisions of the state constitution allow them to set gun policy, two previous challenges to the state uniformity law say otherwise: Both times, the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the law.

Yost’s request for the TRO in Fairfield County – where roughly 11,000 Columbus residents live – stems from the 2019 case, in which Columbus requested a preliminary injunction against the state’s uniformity law.

More than 3½ years later, in November 2022, Judge McIntosh granted the preliminary injunction. The state, in turn, requested an automatic stay of the preliminary injunction and filed a notice of appeal, which is currently before the Tenth District Court of Appeals.

McIntosh granted the state’s stay motion in full, staying “all proceedings.” As a technical matter, the state sought to clarify this order.

On Wednesday, after Yost had already filed the injunction request in Fairfield County, Judge McIntosh issued his clarification: “The Court hereby STAYS all proceedings in this matter pending a final decision issued by the Tenth District Court of Appeals.”