Thursday, February 13, 2003

Concealed weapons charge thrown out

Judge calls law unconstitutional

The Associated Press

TIFFIN, Ohio - A Seneca County judge ruled the state's decades-old ban on carrying concealed weapons violates the Ohio Constitution as he dismissed a case against a woman charged with having a hidden gun in a car.

In a similar case, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge by activists from Hamilton County who argue the law is illegal. The activists say they want to carry guns for self-defense and sued to try to prevent Cincinnati and county authorities from enforcing the ban.

Seneca Common Pleas Judge Michael P. Kelbley said in his 18-page ruling issued Tuesday that the law prevents Ohioans from defending themselves.

Kathryn J. Howard, 28, of Fostoria, asked the court in November 2002 to dismiss the charge, saying she needed a concealed gun for protection because she had been sexually assaulted in the past.

Howard was a passenger in a car pulled over in June 2002 in Fostoria, and police found her loaded 9mm pistol under her seat, court documents said. The driver was charged with driving under the influence.

Kelbley said in his ruling that although the Hamilton County case was cited in Howard's motion to dismiss, he had to make an independent decision on the law's constitutionality. He said he could focus only on Howard's case and did not consider whether his decision would set a precedent.

In January, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said the ban violates the Ohio Constitution and people should be allowed to carry weapons. In April, the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. The Supreme Court has not said when it will hear arguments in the case.

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