Wednesday, July 26, 2000

County, city appeal gun law

Appellate court will hear arguments for reversal Friday

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An Ohio appeals court will hear arguments Friday on whether a Hamilton County judge overstepped his authority last week when he threw out Ohio's concealed weapons law.

        Attorneys for the county and the city of Cincinnati want the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals to reverse the judge's decision and put the law back on the books.

        In a legal petition filed Tuesday, attorneys argued that Judge Robert Ruehlman had no legal right to ban enforcement of the law. They said the judge's June 18 decision confuses the public and makes the job of law enforcement officers more difficult.

        “We're saying the judge did not have the right to declare the law unconstitutional,” said county Prosecutor Mike Allen.

        Judge Ruehlman stunned local law enforcement last week when he ordered Sheriff Simon L. Leis and Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher to stop enforcing the concealed weapons law.

        The judge made the decision after hearing arguments from four people who claimed they needed to carry concealed weapons for their own protection.

        They said Ohio's law is unfair because getting arrested and going to court is the only way to prove they have a legitimate need for a concealed weapon.

        Their attorneys argued the law makes it impossible for their clients — a hairdresser, personal trainer, private investigator and pizza shop owner — to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.

        The judge agreed there were “problems with the law” and ordered the police and sheriff to stop enforcing it.

        But Mr. Allen, who represents Sheriff Leis, said the judge went too far. He said the state legislature — not the courthouse — is the place to deal with the issue.“There are problems with that statute, but they should be resolved in the legislature,” Mr. Allen said.

        City attorneys, who represent the police chief, said they planned to file a similar request with the appeals court Tuesday or today.

        One of the key issues in the case is whether Judge Ruehlman has the authority to make such a sweeping decision. Although the lawsuit was filed by four people, the judge said his ban on enforcement would apply to everyone.

        The county's petition argues that no other judge in Ohio has declared the law unconstitutional, and that Judge Ruehlman does not have the right to do it himself.

        Mr. Allen said his client, Sheriff Leis, also objects to the ruling because it applies only to his deputies and to Cincinnati police.

        Although there are more than 40 police agencies in the county, the city police and sheriff's department were the only ones named in the lawsuit.

        The confusion was illustrated last week when a man was stopped for carrying a concealed weapon in Green Township. Although a sheriff's deputy made the stop, a Green Township officer had to make the arrest.


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