$31K settlement with pro-gun group

By Laurie Hamame - lhamame@aimmediamidwest.com

A $31,000 payout to a pro-gun group was approved Monday by Oberlin city council to settle a lawsuit involving the possession of firearms in public parks.

Ohioans for Concealed Carry sued the city in 2013, just weeks after council rescinded a 1998 law that prohibited guns in public parks.

The complaint, filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, claimed the new law violates state statute.

The court ruled in favor of the city. Council members ultimately decided to rewrite the ordinance to simply reiterate state law.

Still, Ohioans for Concealed Carry appealed the decision, arguing that municipal governments cannot pass ordinances that regulate firearms, even if they do not conflict with state law in any way.

The Ohio 9th District Court of Appeals upheld ordinances that read identically to state law but remanded the case back to trial court to rule whether the plaintiffs prevail in a legal challenge.

The worst case scenario, Oberlin law director Jon Clark said, would be to continue litigation over the next few years only to be ordered to pay the pro-gun group’s attorney fees, which would be much higher than fees accrued to date.

The settlement is financially “the right thing to do,” councilman Kelley Singleton said, but he’s reluctant to support the decision.

“We won and yet we still are stuck with the tab,” he said.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame