A Common Pleas Court judge will consider legal arguments from the city and the National Rifle Association today on whether five local gun-control laws passed last month should be enforced.
Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan, who last month issued a temporary restraining order to keep the city from enforcing the laws, is considering whether to make the order permanent.
The NRA, pointing to a state Supreme Court ruling from 1996, insists that only the state can regulate firearms.
The city concedes that the state regulates lawful firearm ownership, but says the local laws are meant to control the illegal possession of firearms by criminals.
"We have a responsibility to the citizens of this city to take whatever steps are lawful to try to address the gun violence in this city," City Solicitor Shelley Smith said after a hearing on the issue yesterday.
Greenspan ordered the city and the NRA to condense their positions into writing by this morning, in advance of an afternoon hearing.
The city wanted to offer testimony from 10 witnesses, including Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and a retired ATF agent, along with 75 exhibits that included two semiautomatic assault rifles. The city planned to use that testimony to argue that there is "no common lawful purpose" for assault weapons.
But NRA attorney C. Scott Shields objected to such a lengthy proceeding.
"What we're trying to circumvent now is putting on a dog and pony show of having to listen to all the different reasons why the city needs gun control," Shields said. "They should really be concerned about criminal control."
The local laws would limit handgun purchases to one a month, make it a crime to not report a lost or stolen gun within 48 hours, allow police to confiscate guns with a judge's approval from people considered a danger to themselves or others, prohibit gun possession by people subject to protection from abuse orders and ban semiautomatic weapons with clips that hold 10 or more rounds.
Susan L. Burke, an attorney hired by the city to fight the case, said that putting the arguments down on paper for the judge to consider preserves the city's right to contest those issues when the case is appealed to a higher court.
Ultimately, the city is hoping to force a reconsideration of the 1996 state Supreme Court ruling.
Greenspan seemed to have little interest in ruling against that precedent. She said at one point that it was "plain as day" that the Supreme Court had decided that the state and not the city has the power to regulate firearms.
"Your claim has to go to the state," Greenspan told city attorneys. "That's where you need to make your case."
The hearing drew a small crowd of demonstrators from X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, a group of men who previously served prison terms, some for crimes with guns.
It also drew Ruth Hayes, whose 27-year-old daughter was gunned down in January 2007 in her home by a jealous ex-boyfriend. Hayes was upset that Greenspan told the city attorneys to take their claim to the state.
"It's not right," Hayes sobbed later while clutching a photo of her daughter. "We need to let the city handle its problems." *