Despite a setback, six cities — including Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge — are continuing to challenge changes to state law that the municipalities say will restrict their ability to enforce local firearms regulations.

The cities on Nov. 25 filed a complaint against the state in Summit County Common Pleas Court to try to stop implementation of State House Bill 228′s amendments to state gun laws. As a first step, the municipalities — which also include Akron, Barberton, Cleveland and Norton — sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the new law from taking effect as scheduled on Dec. 28.

Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison McCarty on Dec. 27 denied the preliminary injunction request, which means the new state law is now in effect. McCarty ruled the cities were not likely to succeed on their challenge of the changes to the state law, did not prove they would suffer "irreparable harm" if the injunction was not enacted, and an injunction would not serve the public interest because it would only benefit some cities.

"The parties still have the ability to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment as the declaratory judgment action that was concurrently filed by the cities will allow further analysis of this issue," wrote McCarty in her decision.

The cities are challenging the constitutionality of the HB 228 amendments. McCarty on Dec. 30 granted the cities’ request for more time to file a response to the state’s motion to dismiss the case. The cities had until Jan. 10 to file a response, while the state would have a deadline of Jan. 17 to file a reply, according to court records.

Cuyahoga Falls Law Director Russ Balthis and Tallmadge Law Director Megan Raber both referred questions on the case to Stephen Funk of Roetzel & Andress, the firm that is representing the municipalities.

Funk did not return a call seeking comment on Judge McCarty’s decision by press time.

Background

When the Ohio House of Representatives introduced HB 228 in May 2017, the legislation sought to expand the locations at which a person has no duty to retreat before using force and modified concealed handgun licensing laws. When HB 228 went to the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, that committee inserted "new restrictions and limitations on a municipality’s home rule authority to adopt and enforce local ordinances relating to firearms and ammunition," according to the cities’ Nov. 25 complaint.

The Ohio House and Senate passed the legislation in November 2018 and December 2018, respectively. Then-Gov.John Kasich vetoed the legislation on Dec. 19, 2018, but the Ohio House and Senate overrode the veto on Dec. 27, 2018.

In her Dec. 27, 2019 ruling, McCarty summarized the arguments of each party. She noted the cities that filed suit believe that under the amendments to HB 228, "they are obligated to repeal all local gun ordinances in order to avoid civil liability. Moreover, due to the inclusion of the word "manufacturing’ [in the amended version of HB 228], the cities are also concerned that local zoning laws, which limit where manufacturing can take place, have also been preempted."

McCarty noted the state, on the other hand, "claims that all of the local ordinances currently in effect … do not run afoul of state or federal law and therefore… would not be affected by the law" that took effect Dec. 28. McCarty added the state "also claims that the inclusion of the word ‘manufacture’ does not nullify already existing zoning laws that generally prohibit manufacturing in residential areas."

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.