Cincinnati mayor proposes 'common sense gun reform' as the city sues Ohio to do even more
Cincinnati Council will likely pass new local gun regulations next week, and the city is suing Ohio for the right to pass even more gun laws.
Mayor Aftab Pureval proposed what he calls common sense gun reform.
The ordinance would allow for local enforcement of a rule that prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from legally possessing a firearm. It would also require safe storage of firearms around children.
Pureval announced plans for the legislation in his State of the City Address late last year. Council Member Liz Keating, the only Republican on council, is co-sponsoring the ordinance.
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"We can't rely on legislators in Columbus and D.C. to make decisions to keep our children safe," Keating said. "This is our city. These are our kids. It is our duty to protect them."
Keating says she’d like to see Republicans at the state and federal level find middle ground on gun regulations.
Three other council members are co-sponsoring: Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Scotty Johnson, and Meeka Owens.
The ordinance: 'maybe one less life we lose'
Officials say the ordinance under consideration now is narrow enough to comply with current state law.
"We may not be able to change the past, but together we can change the future," said Cincinnati Police Chief Teresa Theetge.
Youth were involved in 38 shootings in the city last year, and 472 guns were stolen, according to CPD data.
"This legislation is huge," said Karen Rumsey, who works in the Cincinnati Police Department's Victim Liaison Unit. "It can't bring back lives. However, maybe that's one less life that we lose here in the city of Cincinnati."
The ordinance will be up for discussion and a possible vote in the Public Safety and Governance Committee Tuesday, Feb. 7. It could get a final Council vote as soon as Feb. 8.
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The ordinance establishes a rule that "dangerous ordnances" must be stored in a way that is inaccessible to children. That includes firearms, explosive or incendiary devices, blasting agents, explosive substances, rocket launchers, or similar weapons. It does not include certain firearms, certain antique weapons or guns that are inoperable as long as they can't be easily made operable again.
The ordinance defines "safe storage" as a safe, case or lockbox, but also a device installed directly on a firearm designed to prevent it from being operated without first deactivating the device.
"Along with keeping kids safe, securely storing firearms also helps reduce the risk of firearm suicide," said Anna Albi, local lead for Moms Demand Action. "In Ohio, 59% of gun deaths are suicides, and access to a gun triples the risk of suicide."
Violating the law would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
CPD offers free gun locks to Cincinnati residents; Theetge says gun owners can access one by contacting their Neighborhood Liaison Officer.
The prohibition on possessing a firearm would apply to a person convicted of domestic violence, or someone subject to a court order related to harassment, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child.
That's already a federal law.
"But we know that the reality is that people do," said City Solicitor Emily Smart Woerner. "What this legislation does is allow us to enforce this locally, so that when we come across those guns under our local law, we can enforce it."
Violating the rule would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Kristin Shrimplin is president and CEO of Women Helping Women, which operates the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, or DVERT. She says an abuser is five times more likely to murder their partner if they have access to a firearm.
"And there needs to be a clearinghouse of storage," Shrimplin said. "So connecting the dots from when the magistrate or the judge checks that box on a protection order that the abuser is to not have access to firearms —collecting firearms, removing firearms. Because otherwise women, or anyone who is identifying as a survivor, is five times more likely to be murdered."
Chief Theetge says that's not quite the goal of this legislation.
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"This is not about going and knocking on somebody's door to take a firearm away from them," Theetge said. "But when circumstances are put in front of [officers] ... that shows somebody is breaking the law, they will take the appropriate action. If that includes removing the firearm, that's what they'll do."
Theetge says 20 people in Cincinnati were murdered in incidents of domestic violence last year.
Read the full ordinance below (story continues after):
Cincinnati Gun Ordinance (January 2023) by WVXU News on Scribd
The lawsuit: 'lawmakers have tied our hands'
The city of Cincinnati is suing the state of Ohio over a law that limits the city's power to enact local gun regulations.
"Lawmakers in the state of Ohio have tied our hands behind our back with broad, restrictive preemption laws that preclude cities like ours from doing what's necessary for public safety," Pureval said. "And you better believe that we will vigorously go after additional gun safety measures when we have the power to do so."
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The city of Columbus filed its own lawsuit challenging the state law soon after it passed in 2019, as the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Both lawsuits say the law violates cities' constitutional home-rule authority.
"While there are two different lawsuits that are going on independent tracks, we have been working collaboratively," said City Solicitor Woerner. "We're supporting each other in achieving this goal, which is to allow cities to be able to govern ourselves."
The lawsuit was filed in Hamilton County Friday. It has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Branch.