Ohio town readies for battle over weapons in parks law

The small town of Oberlin, Ohio is preparing for a big fight over a change in its law that would permit people to carry weapons in local parks, in accordance with a state statute.

The change will have to be made over the opposition of many residents and the City Council.

"I'm not in favor of any of this,'' Council President Ron Rimbert told the Plain Dealer. "No one on Council is. But we need to get this passed. We have a responsibility to our citizens that we don't get caught up in any litigation. In Oberlin, we're protective of our family and friends. But this is a state law.''

An Ohio law passed in 2006 permits people to carry guns in most public places, including public parks. Oberlin's ordinance prohibiting the carrying of guns in parks has been on the books since 1998. No one seems to have noticed the discrepancy until Brian Kuzawa, from neighboring Ashland County, contacted the town's police chief on August 2.

Kuzawa told Oberlin Police Chief Tom Miller in an email that he and his wife would be bringing their two-year-old to an Oberlin park the next day, and both he and his wife would be carrying guns. Miller called Kuzawa after receiving his email and admitted that the state law trumped the city's ordinance.

Oberlin's City Council is expected to decide on September 16 whether to rescind the local law, or challenge the state law in court. Precedent is not on their side if they choose the latter option; Cleveland lost a similar gun-rights battle in 2010.

That hasn't stopped members of the City Council in Oberlin, a town renowned for its liberalism that is the home of Oberlin College, from making their displeasure known.

"Oberlin does not want people bringing guns into its parks,'' Councilmember Shannon Fairchild-Soucy told the Plain Dealer.

Doug Deeken, of the group Ohioans for Concealed Carry, took a different view of the controversy.

"We don't want law-abiding citizens getting arrested in Oberlin for an unenforceable law," he told the paper. "That's the crux of the matter."

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