Homicides have fallen in the city of Columbus from a record 205 set in 2022.
That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s no comfort to those living in fear in gun violence-plagued neighborhoods, or to the families and friends left to mourn the nearly 130 people killed so far in 2022 , all but a handful by gunfire.
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Such heartbreaking violence would be difficult to combat in any city or state.
Columbus is made even more difficult by laws approved by the Ohio state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine that make it easier to own, buy, or otherwise acquire firearms.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein told our editor that the city’s efforts to address gun violence are being hampered by the Republican-led state legislature.
The most recent example is a back-and-forth between his office and that of Attorney General Dave Yost over gun restrictions the city wants to introduce and a state law barring municipal gun ordinances — Ohio Revised Code Section 9.68, known as the Ohio Revised Code Section 9.68 “Right to bear arms – challenge the law.”
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Klein said cities are facing the consequences of the extreme decision the state made, primarily on behalf of the Second Amendment rights.
The impact of Ohio’s new laws relaxing gun restrictions has not yet been measured, but Klein cited information he received from police officers working in Columbus as evidence.
“You just see so many guns,” he said. “Everyone has a gun.”
Klein pointed to a March study by Washington think tank Third Way showing that so-called red states controlled by Republican-elected officials, like Ohio, have higher homicide rates.
Recent studies by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with relaxed carry and concealment laws have an increase in police shootings and a 10% increase in gun attacks per 100,000 people.
“There’s a direct correlation between the lack of gun laws and the violence we’re seeing, and that’s a problem cities across the country are seeing,” Klein said. “The state of Ohio is trying to put its thumb on the scale and put guns on our streets—then turn around and blame big cities.” The state’s “stand your ground” law was signed into law in 2021. Ohio residents 21 and older are allowed Conceal firearms without training or authorization and cut the training hours it takes for a teacher to be armed in school from 728 hours to about 24 hours.
Columbus’ ability to curb gun violence is hampered by lawmakers who should strive to protect all Ohio citizens.
The meaning of “stay”
Columbus officials’ hopes of enacting a trio of gun regulations may hinge on the importance of a residency question from Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh and how enforced house rules are or are not applied.
City officials want to ban those who can legally buy guns from buying them for those who can’t, ban large-caliber ammunition magazines longer than 30 rounds, and require safekeeping of firearms when minors could reasonably be at risk of getting them from them.
Earlier this month and after being sued by Columbus for inaction in his 2019 case, McIntosh temporarily blocked part of a law in Ohio that blocks cities from passing local gun laws.
City officials say the law violates their house rules rights under our state constitution and that it should be able to add the three gun restrictions.
On November 11, McIntosh granted a restraining order requested by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
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Yost told us the stay prevents the city from proceeding with gun restrictions. Klein argues that this is not the case and only refers to the further proceedings in the case itself.
Yost says his position is about following the law enacted by the legislature, not commenting on the city’s proposed ordinance.
“I totally agree that we cannot ignore the carnage that is going on,” he told us, noting that his office’s ventures include efforts to solve crimes through ballistic testing using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network .
He cited Hamilton County Attorney Joseph T. Deters’ zero-pleasure trial policy in gun cases and applauded Columbus Police Commissioner Elaine Bryant’s attempts to target areas of high crime activity.
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Yost concedes that house rules are allowed in other sections of Ohio law in part because “there are things that are important in urban settings that may not be as important in rural or suburban areas.”
The Ohio law, which prevents cities from enacting their own gun laws, is intended to prevent a patchwork of different laws when it comes to firearm ownership, he said.
“A citizen shouldn’t have to worry about crossing the street and going to another jurisdiction (where gun restrictions contrast),” Yost said. “We should have a law against possession of what the government calls contraband.”
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We understand his arguments, but think it is more important that there are safeguards in place to protect the citizens of this city from the pain and heartbreak caused by guns for which large caliber ammunition magazines with more than 30 rounds were made.
Targeting criminals is clearly not enough.
Lives are left in shambles
McIntosh or a Circuit Court judge will make their call, but it’s counterintuitive that gun laws are somehow exempt from the House Rules, which according to information prepared by staff at the Legislative Service Commission for members of the Ohio General Assembly, “the powers of local self-government, the exercise of certain police powers, and the ownership and operation of public utilities.”
Gun violence may not be such a big problem in rural and suburban communities, but it’s certainly a problem in Columbus and other major Ohio metro areas.
“We are responsible to the millions of people in the city of Columbus and we see violence every day,” Klein said.
After a gun-related homicide record set in 2020 and broken in 2021, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther declared gun violence a public health crisis in February.
“My life is still in shambles,” said Jackie Casimire, the mother of slain 2020 gun violence victim Corneluis “Ray” Casimire, as part of a Dispatch article about the statement. “The guns on the street cause death every day… it’s a story repeated over and over again.”
A citizen of Columbus should neither fear the repercussions nor pay the ultimate price for untied gun rights.
Columbus and other cities should be able to enact sane gun laws that protect people.
Unfortunately, the state parliament has not shown any signs that it is ready for this. In fact, as Klein says, the opposite is true. Statehouse decisions make guns more readily available for the potential danger of people living in cities like Columbus.
“They’re flooding the market (with guns) all over the state of Ohio,” Klein said. “There are consequences in the real world.”
These aftermath have sent far too many people to early graves here, and left far too many mourners to keep a list of those killed by gun violence.
Far too many are in ruins.
Ohio’s gun laws are moving Columbus and the rest of the state in a very dangerous direction.
That should be criminal.This article was written by Dispatch Opinion Editor Amelia Robinson on behalf of the Dispatch Editorial Board. Editorials are fact-based assessments by our Board of Directors on issues important to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporters, who strive for neutrality in their reporting.