New Albany officials are trying to bring local laws in compliance with a 2008 Ohio Supreme Court decision that allows licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns in public parks, but some City Council members say they don't agree with the state law.
"You can't bring in a slingshot (to a New Albany park) but you can bring in a firearm," Councilman Mike Mott said.
City Council heard the first reading March 4 of an amendment to ordinances that prohibit firearms in city parks.
The city's current law states: "No person, other than law-enforcement officials, shall carry a firearm of any description, air or gas gun, a bow, crossbow or any other missile-throwing device within a park, or discharge any firearms, explosive substances, or air or gas guns into or over a park, or bring into a park any pistol, switchblade or hunting knife, dagger, metal knuckles, slingshot or other weapon or firearm."
The amendment would remove the words firearm or firearms from several sections, thus allowing people with concealed-handgun licenses to carry in city parks, as they are permitted to do by state law.
The amendment also would change section 549 of the city code to allow people with concealed-handgun licenses to have loaded handguns "readily available" in their vehicles, also as they are permitted by state law.
City Council is expected March 18 to hear the second reading of the amendment ordinance and potentially could vote on it.
Mott, who umpires sporting events in Bevelhymer Park, said he understands why someone might want to carry a firearm in a remote part of a city park where he or she could encounter a dangerous person or animal.
But, he said, he doesn't support people carrying firearms in Bevelhymer Park because it is frequently used by children and families.
"I wish there was a way to exempt Bevelhymer Park from this, if there was an exemption for families or something, because it just doesn't seem to make sense," Mott said.
Dave Wharton, director of New Albany Parks and Recreation, which manages Bevelhymer Park, the Thompson Road Park and the Wexner Community Pavilion, said he is not against the right to bear arms, but he, too, wants an exemption for sport facilities.
"I'm a little disappointed that there's not more distinction between types of parks," Wharton said. "At a sporting event, I don't see the need for a gun to be involved in an emotional outing that involves kids or adults. I'm disappointed that opportunity exists, but we will comply with the law."
Councilwoman Colleen Briscoe asked City Attorney Mitch Banchefsky if any exemptions were available for Bevelhymer Park. Banchefsky said no exemptions are available.
The Ohio Supreme Court on Sept. 18, 2008, upheld that "a Clyde city ordinance banning possession of firearms in municipal parks is unconstitutional because it conflicts with a general state law that permits licensed individuals to carry a concealed weapon on any public property other than at locations specified in the state statute," according to the Ohio Supreme Court's website.
Banchefsky said the city is required to update its ordinances to align with state law. He said city officials were contacted Feb. 10 by Brian Kuzawa of Ashland, who noticed the city's ordinances did not match state law for concealed carry.
Kuzawa said he is reviewing city laws and has found many city officials are not aware their local laws are out of compliance with some state statutes.
Banchefsky said city officials had been aware of the law since the 2008 Ohio Supreme Court decision.
He said the city waited to update its ordinances, reviewing what other cities did and making sure no other changes were in store.
"We were waiting for the dust to settle," Banchefsky said. "It was a split decision by the court and there may have been other cases pending at the time.
"The concealed-carry law in Ohio has been amended and there are amendments pending as we speak.
"We did advise the (police department) in 2008 shortly after that decision that they were not to enforce any provisions related to concealed carry in parks or concealed carry as it relates to having firearms in a vehicle."
Police Chief Greg Jones said the New Albany police department would have more enforcement issues if City Council does not approve the ordinance.
"We haven't had any issues or problems in the past," Jones said. "This ordinance makes it a cleaner issue for us."
New Albany's amendment would not apply to gun owners without a concealed-carry permit, who must transport firearms unloaded, which means the gun has no ammunition in the chamber and no loaded magazines or speed loaders inserted into it, according to section 2923.16 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Unloaded firearms must be in a closed package, box or case; a compartment that can be reached only by leaving the vehicle; or in plain sight with the action open if a long gun, according to section 2923.16.
If loaded magazines or ammunition that can be used in the gun are in the vehicle, they must be "stored in a compartment within the vehicle in question that cannot be accessed without leaving the vehicle or ... stored in a container that provides complete and separate enclosure," according to section 2923.16.
Banchefsky said the safest procedure for people without a concealed-carry permit is to place the firearm in the trunk and the ammunition in the glovebox.