New Albany News

City Council brings local gun laws to bear with state

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New Albany City Council voted unanimously March 18 to bring local laws about guns in line with the Ohio Revised Code.

City law prohibits residents from bringing most weapons into public parks.

However, city officials have not been enforcing the provision of the law prohibiting people from carrying firearms in parks because state law permits those with concealed-handgun licenses and those who openly carry firearms to legally do so.

"You can carry openly in the public and parks are included," said police Chief Greg Jones.

The legislation approved March 18 removes the words firearm or firearms from several sections in the city code pertaining to banning weapons in public parks.

It also changed section 549 of the city code to allow people with concealed-handgun licenses to have handguns loaded and "readily available" in their vehicles, as they are permitted by state law.

As with state law, the legislation requires that anyone in a park with a concealed firearm must have a valid permit.

City Councilman Mike Mott asked during the first reading of the legislation on March 4 if there is a way to exclude parks from the concealed-carry provision. He asked again March 18 and was given the same answer by City Attorney Mitch Banchefsky, who said there is no way for the city to prevent concealed-carry in parks.

"The chances that a gunfight will break out in our parks is remote, if any. It's just as remote even if we pass this," Mott said.

Ohio law permits residents to openly carry firearms in public places, although section 2923.16 of the Ohio Revised Code sets out several restrictions for transporting firearms in vehicles. Those with concealed-carry licenses are exempt from most of the vehicle restrictions pertaining to handguns.

Banchefsky said open-carry laws allow anyone who legally obtained a firearm to carry the firearm within city limits, which includes public parks, unless there is a federal exception, such as the prohibition of open carry within 1,000 feet of a school building.

* Council also agreed unanimously March 18 to rewrite a rights-of-way use ordinance to bring it into compliance with state law.

Attorney Chris Miller of Ice Miller, who consulted with city officials in rewriting the code, said New Albany needs to change its fee structure and move to issuing permits instead of contracting individually with users.

Miller said all users need to be treated equally.

Currently, each user contracts with the city and each contract is different, he said.

Miller said the new legislation requires all rights-of-way users to pay a fee per miles of right of way occupied. Each user has to meet with city officials annually and report any work that will be completed in that calendar year, so the city can coordinate any of its own projects with rights-of-way users.

Miller said, for example, it would prevent a utility from digging up a new berm that was installed the previous year.

Councilman Glyde Marsh asked if the legislation takes control away from City Council.

City Manager Joseph Stefanov said the legislation gives the city staff more control through the annual review.

It also would allow the city to deny permits for users who do not follow the rules, he said.

lwince@thisweeknews.com

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