Ohio Supreme Court upholds law blocking city gun bans

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld as constitutional a state law that prevents Cleveland and other cities from passing restrictive gun laws.

In a 5-2 decision, the court found the 2006 law does not infringe on the “home rule” powers of Ohio cities.

The court ruled the state statute “is a general law that displaces municipal firearm ordinances and does not unconstitutionally infringe on municipal home rule authority.”

The ruling overturns a lower court decision. Gun control advocates criticized the decision and tied it to campaigns by the National Rifle Association, a powerful national lobbying group against gun control.

“This is part of an NRA effort to get guns into more places and to take away the power of local citizens to decide what their gun laws will be,” said Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

Before Ohio passed the law, Cleveland had a number of ordinances regulating guns, including requiring firearms to be registered and forbidding anyone from openly carrying a gun.

The city had argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that the state statute infringed on its home rule powers and was an abuse of legislative power.

“Our inability to enforce laws that are right for our city flies in the face of home rule and takes power away from the people at the local level,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson in a statement.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray praised the ruling. “This is an important victory for every gun owner in Ohio,” Cordray said.

He said that before the 2006 statute, “Ohioans faced a confusing patchwork of local ordinances with different restrictions on gun ownership and possession.”

Vice said the Ohio Supreme Court left open the possibility the state statute could be found to be overly broad, by directing this issue back to a lower court.

But Jeff Garvas, president of Ohioans For Concealed Carry, which supports the state statute, said he doubted that issue “will gain any traction,” since the statute only addresses firearms.

Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton and Peter Bohan