Article I, § 4 of the Ohio Constitution provides: “The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be kept up; and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.” The Supreme Court of Ohio held this provision “secures to every person a fundamental individual right to bear arms for ‘their defense and security.'” (Emphasis omitted.)1 The right to bear arms under Article I, § 4 is not unlimited, however, but is subject to the reasonable exercise by municipalities of their police power under article XVIII, § 3 of the Ohio Constitution.2
In Arnold, the supreme court rejected a challenge to Cleveland’s ordinance banning the possession and sale of assault weapons, holding that although a municipality could not ban all firearms, Cleveland’s ban on assault weapons was reasonable and did not violate article I, § 4.3
Ten years later, in Klein v. Leis, the court held that Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2923.12 and 2923.16, which at the time prohibited the carrying of concealed firearms, were constitutional notwithstanding article I, § 4.4 The court opined that while article I, § 4 does create a fundamental right, the right is subject to reasonable limitations, and “there is no constitutional right to bear concealed weapons.”5 Sections 2923.12 and 2923.16 regulated the manner in which firearms could be carried, and the court noted that such regulations have long been accepted as reasonable limitations under article I, § 4.6 Subsequent to Klein, the Ohio Legislature amended the law regarding concealed weapons, and under current law an individual may be licensed to carry a concealed handgun. For more information, please see the Concealed Weapons Permitting in Ohio section.
In addition to rejecting article I, § 4 challenges to Cleveland’s ban on assault weapons and the state ban on carrying concealed weapons, Ohio courts have rejected similar challenges to the following regulations:
- Dayton’s requirement that owners and purchasers of handguns obtain identification cards;7
- Cincinnati’s prohibition on possession of semiautomatic firearms and high-capacity magazines;8
- Cleveland’s prohibition of the manufacture, possession, sale, or purchase of.32 caliber (or less) handguns with barrel-lengths of less than three inches;9
- Akron’s prohibition on firearm possession by convicted felons;10 and
- Toledo’s extensive firearms ordinance prohibiting certain classes of persons from possessing firearms, requiring identification cards to acquire or possess handguns, requiring firearms dealers to be licensed and keep certain records, and prohibiting the carrying of firearms in vehicles.11
Finally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected an article I, § 4 challenge to a Columbus ordinance banning assault weapons (although the ordinance was overturned on other grounds).12
- Arnold v. City of Cleveland, 616 N.E.2d 163, 169 (Ohio 1993).
- Id. at 171-173.
- Id. at 173.
- 99 Ohio St. 3d 537, 2003-Ohio-4779, 795 N.E.2d 633.
- Klein v. Leis, 99 Ohio St. 3d 537, 2003-Ohio-4779, 795 N.E.2d 633, at ¶ 15.
- Id. at ¶ 8 – ¶ 15.
- Mosher v. City of Dayton, 358 N.E.2d 540 (Ohio 1976).
- City of Cincinnati v. Langan, 640 N.E.2d 200 (Ohio Ct. App. 1994).
- City of Cleveland v. Turner, 1977 Ohio App. LEXIS 9391 (Ohio Ct. App. 1977) (unreported decision).
- City of Akron v. Williams, 177 N.E.2d 802 (Ohio Ct. App. 1960).
- Photos v. City of Toledo, 19 Ohio Misc. 147, 151-2 (Ct. Com. Pl. 1969).
- Peoples Rights Org., Inc. v. City of Columbus, 152 F.3d 522, 538 (6th Cir. 1998).