Friday, September 06, 2002

Showdown on concealed weapons

Ohio Supreme Court to decide if citizens can carry

By Dan Horn,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ohio Supreme Court will have the final say in a dispute over whether ordinary citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

        The state's high court agreed Wednesday to hear arguments in the case, which began two years ago when four Hamilton County residents sued for the right to carry concealed guns.

        The four claimed an Ohio law forbidding concealed weapons was unconstitutional because they needed the guns for self-defense.

        A Hamilton County judge and appeals court agreed, declaring the law unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case means it will settle the dispute once and for all.

        The court's decision will affect the entire state, not just Hamilton County.

        “Any ruling the court would issue would have applicability statewide,” said Rick Dove, spokesman for the court. “So you'd have that uniformity.”

        The court was concerned about the law being applied uniformly when the justices decided in April to put a hold on the order that struck down the law in Hamilton County.

        If the Supreme Court had not acted, Hamilton County would have been the only county in Ohio that allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons.

        A similar case in Union County ended with a judge declaring the law constitutional.

        Under the existing law, citizens may carry guns only if they have a legitimate reason, such as self-defense. But the only way to prove a legitimate reason is to get arrested for violating the law and argue the point in court.

        The Hamilton County lawsuit claims that is unconstitutional. The suit — filed by a hairdresser, a personal trainer, a private investigator and a pizza delivery man — says the state should have a licensing system that allows people to carry concealed weapons without fear of arrest.

        Lawyers for the county and the Ohio Attorney General's office argue that the right to bear arms does not prevent the state from regulating how people may carry guns. Without the law, they say, police and others would face a greater risk of harm.

        The Supreme Court will decide in the next few weeks when it will hear arguments in the case.


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