An Ohio judge has permanently barred the city of Columbus from enforcing its ban on “bump stock” devices, saying the city’s recently passed ordinance violates the state Constitution.
A bump stock is a “component” of a firearm, and so the city’s ban violates state law that generally allows the possession of guns and associated parts absent a conflicting state or federal restriction, Franklin County Judge David E. Cain said in a ruling announced Friday.
Judge Cain also said in the ruling that the city can enforce new penalties for domestic abusers caught with guns. He had issued a temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of both ordinances after gun-rights advocates sued last month.
Columbus had tried to argue that bump stocks, which are used to modify the rate of fire on semiautomatic weapons to mimic fully automatic ones like machine guns, are gun “accessories” that localities can regulate.
Bump stocks gained notoriety after authorities said the gunman in last year’s Las Vegas shooting used them to spray gunfire onto concert-goers, in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
States and localities have since moved to ban them, and the Trump administration is trying to rewrite federal regulations to do so as well.
In the Columbus case, Judge Cain said the city tried to argue that bump stocks are gun “accessories,” not parts, because they can be installed by the end user — which he said could result in a situation where the legality of the devices hinges on who installs them.
“If a person orders a bump-stock be placed on a rifle directly from the manufacturer, then under Columbus‘ logic, that bump-stock is now a component of the rifle,” he wrote.
“If the manufacturer installed the bump-stock, you are good,” he continued. “If you installed the bump stock, you go to jail. Two different results for possessing the same product. The logic fails.”
He said the case isn’t about the levels of gun violence in society, whether it’s morally right to ban bump stocks, or whether new gun restrictions related to domestic abusers will prevent gun violence.
“This matter is purely a legal matter,” he wrote. “It is solely about whether Columbus has the authority to enact the ordinances. That is all there is.”
Still, the ruling should be a warning to other cities in Ohio, said Dean Rieck, the head of the Buckeye Firearms Association, whose associated foundation sued over the new rules.
“Buckeye Firearms Association will not tolerate infringements against the Second Amendment and will take action against any city that passes unconstitutional laws,” Mr. Rieck said.
There is a similar ongoing lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati’s bump-stock ban.
In a statement, Columbus city attorney Zach Klein said they appreciate the judge’s deliberation and analysis but remain confident that the bump stocks are an accessory the city has a legal right to regulate.
He also called the decision “a huge win for common-sense gun regulations.”
“It’s simple: keeping guns out of the hands of criminals helps protect victims of domestic violence, law enforcement, and makes our community a safer place to live,” he said in a statement to WBNS-10TV.
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