In approving a resolution to discourage the Ohio General Assembly from loosening restrictions on background checks and the places where citizens may carry handguns, Bexley City Council members said they wanted to send a message to state lawmakers that municipalities should maintain local control on the issue.
Council members approved Resolution 17-17 in a 6-1 vote Dec. 19. The resolution, which takes aim at House bills 142, 201 and 233 and Senate Bill 180, expresses the city's opposition to several pieces of legislation state lawmakers are considering. If adopted, as Bexley's resolution states, the state legislation would expand "the availability and locations where guns can be carried by citizens and consequently inhibiting rights of business owners, local government, educational institutions and citizens to control and secure the safety of their individual environments."
"In the General Assembly, there is a slew of legislation going through all at the same time," said council member Deneese Owen, who introduced the resolution. "The genesis of this was us looking at this and saying, 'Hold the phone. This is not good.' We've got a whole bunch of stuff going through that is making for a more permissive environment (for guns)."
According to a May 30 story on Dispatch.com, a series of bills aimed at expanding the rights of Ohio gun owners was making its way through the legislature.
If all are approved, the bills would ease the ability of individuals to carry a concealed handgun.
One bill would remove the need for a license to carry a concealed handgun. Another would remove the responsibility of concealed-carry holders to notify law-enforcement officers that they're carrying weapons when pulled over. And another would widen the legal parameters of self-defense by removing the duty to retreat before using lethal force, more commonly known as a "stand-your-ground" law.
Council member Richard Sharp cast the only "no" vote on the council resolution, saying it mischaracterizes some of the pending state legislation and contains inaccurate statistics about gun violence.
"I don't think that some of the changes in the law will be as draconian as being interpreted" by the resolution, he said.
South Stanwood Road resident Marc Abramson told council members he also doesn't think the statistics about gun violence in Bexley's resolution are completely accurate.
"I don't disagree with all of this," he said. "I just don't think it was very well-written."
Council member Mary Gottesman, who is a nurse practitioner, said laws that make guns more accessible could exacerbate public-health issues.
"As a health-care professional and a pediatric health-care professional, what I had always heard at every conference I'd gone to when it comes to addressing firearms is that liberalizing it and making it more permissive and more acceptable to have guns is harmful to children," she said. "Suicide-prevention people always talk about getting firearms away from people who are depressed or who have attempted suicide."
Mayor Ben Kessler said he helped Owen craft the resolution because he believes Ohio's current restrictions on guns help maintain public safety.
"I believe firmly that background checks are an important piece of the ownership process and the carrying process, as well," he said. "I believe that owners and operators of property have a good platform to broadcast that opinion."
State legislators might not give much credence to Bexley's resolution, but it's an important statement nonetheless, said council President Tim Madison.
"While the state may not listen to Bexley, maybe other municipalities will follow this," he said. "And maybe the voices will be heard from that perspective."
The Columbus Dispatch reporter Andrew Keiper contributed to this story.