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Updated: Gun Rights Organization Sues Cleveland Heights

Ohioans For Concealed Carry wants the city to take down its signs from parks and repeal specific gun laws

Updated 12:50 p.m. Thursday

A gun rights organization has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland Heights because it believes the city has firearm-related laws that conflict with state laws.

According to the complaint filed by Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Cleveland Heights resident and gun owner Philip Mulivor Friday, more than a dozen Cleveland Heights ordinances violate the Ohio Revised Code, including ones that prohibit guns in public parks, require gun owners obtain a city ID card, and mandate that dealers follow city record-keeping requirements and get a license to sell guns.

Chris Harben, compliance coordinator for the nonprofit organization, said he and others from the OFCC have been calling the city since 2007 about a specific violation — signs in public parks that ban weapons. 

“I had a conversation with the law director myself trying to get this resolved ... There was at least three attempts to resolve this without having to go to court,” Harben said, adding that the last conversation was in May.

Harben asked that the city take them down. 

Normally the OFCC tries to explain the laws to cities first, and most comply.             

“We don’t currently have a problem like this anywhere else in the state at this point,” Harben said. He’s had to take one other city to court because of signs, he said.

“If we find the sign, it’s a conversation and usually something reasonable … But Cleveland Heights, they seem to not want to be reasonable.” 

Law Director John Gibbon said the only complaint he received over the phone was regarding the signs in , and the organization made no mention of the ordinances. 

"I’ve had no conversation with anyone about all of these other ordinances that they are suggesting are illegal. I certainly will be required to give those attention to resolve this lawsuit, and if any of them are no longer in compliance with the changes in Ohio law, we will certainly change our ordinances so we are in compliance with current law, and either will do that by repealing them or amending them" Gibbon said.

But Jeff Garvas, president of the OFCC, said he sent a letter dated Sept. 29, 2008, to Mayor Ed Kelley, City Manager Robert Downey and Gibbon, and sent a copy to Cleveland Heights Patch.

"… A cursory review of Cleveland Heights ordinances suggests that numerous sections of Chapter 551 need to be amended or repealed with respect to firearms. Specifically, Cleveland Heights’s handgun registration card, dealer licensing, records of firearms dealers, possession in public places, and virtually every restriction the city has enacted are preempted by ORC 9.68," Garvas wrote in the letter. 

Gibbon said some of the statements in the complaint are not accurate, including one that said he told the OFCC over the phone that he disagreed with Ohio Revised Code 9.68, which outlines gun owner rights. 

"The main plaintiff, who is a Cleveland Heights resident, as far as I know from reading the complaint has not been harmed or inconvenienced," said Gibbon, explaining that according to the complaint, no one has been arrested or charged for violating a city law that is conflicts with state law. "I certainly will look at the ordinances at issue, and we will certainly take care of them if they are no longer in compliance with current law."

The suit was filed Friday in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, and forwarded to City Hall Monday, according to the Common Pleas Court website. 

Jim August 17, 2011 at 08:22 PM
This part from ORC 9.68 is interesting. Looks like the Law Director should have been a bit more responsive. I worked with my city on this very same issue and it was very easy. They responded instantly and fixed up existing laws without any trouble at all. This is going to cost Cleveland Heights some money now. "(B) In addition to any other relief provided, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to any person, group, or entity that prevails in a challenge to an ordinance, rule, or regulation as being in conflict with this section."
jerrihobbs August 19, 2011 at 07:03 AM
New Gun Rights Petition for Supreme Court http://bit.ly/oRR0uQ
Fran Mentch August 22, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Jim says, "This is going to cost Cleveland Heights some money now". I would hope everyone who supports this suit will see that the money is spent on a gun education and juvenile delinquency prevention program for our schools. One such program is run by police officers and is called GREAT, and has proven to have some effectiveness. There has been an increased use of guns in local crime. One such crime involved an FBI agent and his friend being accosted by a 15 yr old with a handgun in Cain Park. One of the apparent goals one of Ohioans for Concealed Carry lawsuit is to permit guns in Cain Park. http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/08/fbi_agent_shoots_15-year-old_r.html. The agent's friend had a gun held to his head. It will be a sign of good faith if Ohioans for Concealed Carry paid for the GREAT program or a similar gun education program to be started in our schools to educate our youth about handguns Otherwise, the OFCC suit just looks like a money grab.
Donald R. Thompson August 23, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Hey Fran in your world I suppose only FBI agents should be permitted to carry guns in Cain Park. Unfortunately the criminal element will never comply with these foolish laws geared toward disarming law abiding citizens allowing criminals to do as they please. You really think a criminal gives a darn about a little sign that tells him or her it's illegal to carry a gun here....when they carry the gun with the intent to commit much more serious crimes like armed robbery? Are you kidding me? Cleveland Heights should comply with state law, the ONLY recourse if they do not is to sue them and force the issue. DO the right and lawful thing Mr. Law Director.
Fran Mentch August 23, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Although you addressed me, "Hey Fran..." you did not respond to my post. If this is not just a money grab, your organization will sponsor a program to improve our young citizens' knowledge about guns and their use and abuse, via a program like GREAT. Young people deserve good information about guns so they can make informed decisions that will not endanger themselves or others. This is one of your organizations goals, as copied from your website:http://www.ohioccw.org/about-us/Page-2.html The excerpt from that webpage is below: Our basic argument is that the State has no right to dictate how law-abiding firearms owners store their personal property. Instead of punishing a firearm owner after a tragedy occurs we believe properly teaching children, in a state-wide mandatory educational requirment, how to avoid and stay away from firearms when they come across them is more intelligent.
Donald R. Thompson August 23, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Why not just adopt a program that already is in place and has proven success http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/
Fran Mentch August 23, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Good idea. Again, if your organization does not pay for this kind of program, your lawsuit with the city just appears to many of us just to be a money grab. And, a waste of our tax dollars and city resources.
Donald R. Thompson August 24, 2011 at 03:07 PM
It's not my organization and I do not want the city to incur monetary damages. I live here (since 2003) and want them to follow the law that the Supreme court of Ohio has ruled on. Having a mixed up variance of laws from community to community is confusing to all. Many states and cities are prejudice to the eddie eagle program becasue the NRA sponsors it, and that is akin to cutting your nose off to spight your face. Once the city complies with the law the lawsuit should be dropped.
Mike August 24, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Fran, I don't think you get what is going on here. It is likely the plaintiffs will win - the Ohio Supreme Court has already found against several cities in cases similar to this one. It is also likely that no damages will be awarded outside of the City of Cleveland Heights having to pay the legal costs incurred by Ohioans for Concealed Carry (lawyers cannot be expected to work for free). Hence, no money grab. Further, the responsibility for the city's tax dollars and resources being wasted lie entirely with the city - they are the ones who violated the law, they are the ones who persisted in a losing course. Ultimately, it is the citizens of Cleveland Heights who bear the responsibility for this situation. If you live in Cleveland Heights, perhaps, come election time, you should work to replace your current crop of criminals with officials who understand and follow the laws of the state.
Donald R. Thompson August 24, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Mike, wouldn't go so far as to call them criminals in this case. Maybe Eric Holder is for fast and furious but that's a whole other situation.
Mike August 25, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Mr. Thompson, I appreciate your argument, and it speaks well of you that you do not wish to appear to be a fire breather going about accusing local politicians of being criminals. But consider this: If the Cleveland Heights Building Department were to send a letter to a resident demanding they paint their garage, and should the letter be ignored, Law Director Gibbon would not hesitate to send armed police officers to force compliance. By that token, Mr. Gibbon, in this case, acts as though he is not subject to the authority he exercises over others. In my mind, that makes him a criminal. If politicians learn early the people who gift them with power are ruthlessly intolerant of officials who abuse that power, the less likely that abuse will be. In other words – treat a conniving politician as a criminal when he is law director of a city, and you will be less likely to have a U.S. Attorney General who is an accessory to murder.
Donald R. Thompson August 26, 2011 at 11:24 AM
To your example of building codes specifically; In reality the city of CH ONLY bothers those that give a damn about thier property, go around to some of the areas off Noble north of Woodview, building code violation enforcement is few and far between in that neighborhood. Some people put off repairs via the appeal process and extensions for 5 years or more, which is quite ridiculous unless you are completely broke. You will get cited by the building inspector and the judge may sentence you to a short jail term, but armed police will not force compliance unless you do not answer a summons and even then you can choose to go to jail instead of making the repair. I get your point about how things can intensify when left alone IE. Holder Et. AL permitting Mexican gun running when they could have stopped it, basically giving the the Mexican gun runners weapons, and yes they are accomplices to the murder of a Border Patrol Agent, a fact that cannot be dismissed.
Conlaw Bloganon August 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM
The right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. -The Constitution http://conlaw-bloganon.blogspot.com

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