- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

An Ohio judge this week extended a temporary restraining order blocking Columbus’ enforcement of a new ban on “bump stock” devices amid a national debate over whether localities — and even the federal government — can legally ban them.

Franklin County Judge David E. Cain determined that gun owners who challenged the rules, approved by the city in May, would suffer if the order takes effect while he is deciding the bigger legal issues.

Gun rights groups are hoping that signals Judge Cain will side with them in his eventual ruling.

“We feel very optimistic about it,” said Chuck LaRosa, a director with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, one of the groups mounting the challenge. “The spirit of the law is very plain that all gun laws are supposed to be at the state level or higher.”

Ohio law generally allows people to carry guns and ammunition if they aren’t barred by state or federal law.

In similar legal disputes in recent years, the state Supreme Court has sided against the localities that tried to impose their own rules, including in a case Mr. LaRosa’s group filed against the city of Clyde over its ban on guns in public parks.

Mr. LaRosa said the case is less about bump stocks, which are devices used to help semi-automatic rifles mimic the rate of fire of machine guns, than it is about the letter of the state’s pre-emption law.

“I’ve never owned a bump stock. I never wanted one. I never even wanted to look at one until they started saying that I couldn’t have one, and then that forbidden-fruit lure is out there,” he said.

Bump stocks gained notoriety after last year’s Las Vegas shooting. Police say the gunman used them to spray bullets on a music festival, in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Localities moved to ban them, and the Trump administration said it would try to rewrite federal regulations to stop their sale nationally.

The city argues that it has a right to ban bump stocks because they are an “accessory” to a firearm, not a “part” of one, and that Columbus is trying to close a gap between federal and state law with new penalties for domestic abusers caught with guns.

“We believe firmly that bump stocks are considered to be an add-on feature, and even bump stock manufacturers themselves describe them as an after-market accessory,” city attorney Zach Klein said.

The city also imposed penalties for people who have been convicted of domestic violence charges or who have protective orders taken against them who are caught with a gun. That, too, is blocked under Judge Cain’s order.

Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, whose associated foundation is also challenging the rules, said Columbus knew in advance that the ban would violate state law — and that it would prompt legal action.

“It is sad that citizens must file a lawsuit to restore the rule of law,” Mr. Rieck said in an email. “We must remind cities across Ohio that their power is limited, and they must obey state law just like the rest of us.”

The groups are also challenging a new ban on the devices enacted by the city of Cincinnati.

Gun rights groups say they also will sue to stop any restrictions that the Trump administration may try to impose.

They pointed to multiple agency decisions during the Obama administration that the devices fell outside of what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is allowed to regulate.

Erich Pratt, executive owner of Gun Owners of America, said Tuesday that his group’s attorneys are still preparing a legal challenge to Mr. Trump’s “illegal executive action” and that he plans to seek out other like-minded groups to join them once things are finalized.

A handful of states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as cities such as Denver and Columbia, South Carolina, have also imposed bans on the devices.

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