Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Ohio concealed-carry verdict due Friday

But whatever court decides, it could only be temporary

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County residents will learn Friday whether a temporary order prohibiting them from carrying concealed weapons will be lifted.

        The order was issued by the Ohio First District Court of Appeals within hours of a Jan. 10 decision by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman. The decision declared the state's 150-year-old ban on hidden weapons unconstitutional.

        Judge Ruehlman sided with a group of Cincinnatians who said the state Constitution allows law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons for their protection.

        He ordered police officers and prosecutors to stop arresting and prosecuting such citizens who are found carrying hidden weapons.

        Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the appellate court heard arguments on the issue from opposing sides.

        State, local and city prosecutors contend that Judge Ruehlman's decision places police officers in danger and forces them to apply the law inconsistently.

        Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor John Arnold told the judges there are 40 cases of concealed-weapons charges pending in Common Pleas court and about 170 indictments for concealed weapons that have been placed in jeopardy by the judge's decision.

        “But if Judge Ruehlman was right, then you want to prosecute people who didn't do anything wrong?” Presiding Appeals Court Judge Mark P. Painter asked.

        Mr. Arnold didn't answer. Instead, he said the appeals court should keep the stay in place pending the overall outcome of the appeal, which will be heard in early April. The appeals court said it would decide on the temporary stay Friday.

        “We only want the status quo,” Mr. Arnold said.

        Tim Smith, an attorney for private citizens who filed the original suit, told the judges the state's arguments “ignore the effects of responsible gun management.”

        “If you lift the stay and allow people to live under the Ohio Constitution as it is written, then violent crime will decrease 2-10 percent.”

        Besides Judge Painter, the panel comprised Appeals Judges Rupert A. Doan and Lee H. Hildebrandt Jr.


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