Friday, September 08, 2000

Concealed gun law 'unfair'

Opponents of Ohio law argue case in Hamilton County court

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Opponents of Ohio's concealed weapons law say ordinary citizens have as much reason to carry a gun as police officers.

        In both cases, they say, the gun is for personal protection.

        The argument was made in a Hamilton County courtroom Thursday by attorneys seeking to overturn an Ohio law that forbids anyone but police from carrying concealed guns.

        The attorneys say the law is unfair because it does not allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.

        Judge Robert Ruehlman heard arguments on the issue Thursday during a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The hearing was the latest in a series of battles that will determine whether the law is constitutional.

        The battles began in July when four Cincinnatians sued every law enforcement agency in Hamilton County, claiming police had no right to arrest people for carrying concealed weapons.

        Those law enforcement agencies asked the judge Thursday to throw out the lawsuit.

        “There is no constitutionally protected right to carry concealed weapons,” said Richard Ganulin, an assistant city solicitor in Cincinnati.

        Mr. Ganulin argued that the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, does not guarantee a right to carry concealed weapons.

        Judge Ruehlman said he would rule on the city's request to dismiss the suit within a few days. The judge already has said he “has problems” with the concealed weapons law and has even declared it unconstitutional.

        Although an appeals court reversed that decision and reinstat ed the law, the judge will get another chance to weigh in during a trial in October.

        The four Cincinnatians who filed the lawsuit are confident the judge will rule in their favor. Their attorney, Tim Smith, said the city's request to dismiss the case is “way off base.”

        He said the U.S. Constitution may not mention concealed weapons, but it does guarantee citizens the right to protect their own lives.

        Mr. Smith said his four clients are seeking the same rights as off-duty police officers, who are permitted by the city to carry guns.

        In effect, he said, the city allows its off-duty officers to violate the concealed weapons law.

        “When (they) carry concealed weapons, it's for themselves. Not for any public good,” Mr. Smith said. “That's exactly the reason these four individuals want to carry a concealed weapon.”

        Mr. Smith and his clients have said they took their case to court because the Ohio legislature has failed to pass new laws that would allow them to carry concealed weapons.

        They say they favor a system in which citizens with no criminal records would be issued permits to carry concealed guns.


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