Upper Arlington News

Law change would allow firearms in public parks


Despite opposition from the city's police chief and several of its own members, Upper Arlington City Council could soon lift local restrictions on carrying firearms in public parks.

Council is expected to consider amending the local law next Monday, April 14.

City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said the move is in response to state law and cases in 2008 and 2010 in which the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that municipalities cannot restrict the carrying of legal guns in public parks and open spaces.

"You can carry as long as it's open," Hummer said at the April 7 council conference session. "Others have tried to litigate. ... Other cities have tried to limit the open carry of firearms, and they have not prevailed."

Cities and other government agencies can lawfully ban firearms from their public buildings -- as is the case at the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center.

However, Hummer said cities which attempt to prohibit open carrying of firearms in parks could be found in violation of state and federal laws and could be forced to pay court costs and attorney fees to any person, group or entity that successfully challenges the restriction.

Several council members, including David DeCapua and council President Don Leach indicated Monday that they don't support allowing firearms in local parks, especially at large public events such as the annual July 4 celebration in Northam Park.

Hummer said the city must comply with state and federal law.

"We don't like it, as well," she said.

Last August, The Columbus Dispatch reported Dave Noice, a West Columbus resident and active member of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, recorded an exchange with Dublin police when he was refused entrance to that city's Dublin Irish Festival at Coffman Park with a loaded .45-caliber handgun openly holstered on his hip.

Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn said there have been other instances in which members of similar organizations have attempted to "set up" law enforcement by taking legal action if they are denied entry to a park because they were carrying a firearm openly.

"(The Upper Arlington proposal) certainly brings it into compliance with existing laws," Quinn said. "I understand the necessity. I don't like it."

Hummer pointed out that Hilliard and New Albany city councils are considering similar changes to their ordinances.

The proposed change to Upper Arlington's city ordinances would not limit the city's authority to prohibit guns from being fired.

Currently, city law states it is illegal to discharge firearms anywhere within the city without a permit from the city's police chief.

City code also prohibits other weapons in parks, including knives, bows and arrows, crossbows, slingshots, missiles and missile-throwing devices.

However, in accordance with state law, the amendment to be brought to council states a person could discharge a firearm in a city park if that person is "acting in self-defense of oneself or another person which is justified under state law."