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City Attorney Zach Klein sues state, wants local power over gun ordinances

City Attorney{ }Zach Klein on Thursday announced new safety and enforcement measures around Columbus following back-to-back weekends of gun violence in the popular Short North area. (WSYX)
City Attorney Zach Klein on Thursday announced new safety and enforcement measures around Columbus following back-to-back weekends of gun violence in the popular Short North area. (WSYX)
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Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced Thursday that his office has filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio, calling the state law restricting local authority on guns "unconstitutional."

Each of the last two weekends has brought gun violence to the popular Short North area, prompting Klein, Mayor Andrew Ginther and Police Chief Elaine Bryant to call a news conference Thursday to announce a weekend curfew and other measures aimed at keeping people safe.

ALSO | Midnight curfew set in Short North following recent violence

The lawsuit "would urge the Court to declare that the City's gun safety ordinances, including requirements for safe storage of firearms, prohibitions on high-capacity magazines, and measures to make it easier to prosecute individuals selling guns to dangerous criminals prohibited from possessing firearms, are enforceable and that the state law restricting local authority on commonsense gun laws is unconstitutional," read a statement from Klein's office.

Columbus City Council passed the aforementioned "commonsense" measures in December, prompting a lawsuit from Buckeye Firearms.

MORE | Columbus City Council approves 'common-sense' gun legislation

Klein accused the state and other opponents of local gun regulation of continuing "an all-out assault on the City's attempts to enforce safety measures."

"Entertainment districts like the Short North, parks or areas around arenas or stadiums on game days where there is a mix of alcohol, heavy traffic and high volumes of people aren't places where we need more guns," Klein said in the statement. "State restrictions are making it harder for police to do their jobs and for the City to ensure safety for all who live, work and visit these areas."

A curfew was one of the measures announced during Thursday's news conference. Bars and restaurants in the Short North area will be asked to close at midnight this weekend. It's not clear when that requirement may be lifted.

MAY 6 | 10 people shot in Short North, police say

ABC 6's Steve Levine asked Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther on Thursday how long that curfew will remain in place.

"As long as it takes," the mayor said.

Food trucks in the area also will be required to close up shop at midnight.

During Thursday's news conference, Klein called out state legislators and even judges, urging the latter group to toughen up on bond amounts and sentencing. He then announced new plans to help law-enforcement officers regain control over late-night troublemakers, particularly in the Short North.

May 14 | Man dies after being shot in Short North early Sunday

"If you are driving your car recklessly, if you have a loud muffler or stereo that's disrupting the quality of life in our neighborhoods -- this neighborhood or anywhere else in Columbus -- if you're engaging in a street takeover, doing wheelies, threatening public safety, and of course adding alcohol, drugs or guns into the mix, and you are caught, you will receive absolutely no plea bargain," he said. "You will eat 100 percent of the penalties and fines -- including jail time if applicable -- and we will take your car as evidence as long as your case is pending. And then you will go down to the impound lot, and you will pay every single dollar to get that car out.

"We are not messing around because this threatens every single person in Columbus."

After Klein discussed penalties for people driving recklessly or involved in street takeovers, ABC6 requested data about enforcement and penalties.

Klein's office said this is the second summer they have partnered with law enforcement on dedicated crackdowns on reckless driving.

During Thursday's press conference, he referenced the Operation Wheels Down and Operation Burnout efforts.

They said while last year there was a focus on ATVs, motorbikes, and other illegal vehicles, this year they are adding street racing, street takeovers and other activity to the focus. This is on top of regular enforcement of reckless driving.

2022 Operation Wheels Down statistics:

Sixty-six arrests, summons, or citations issued:

  • Charges include no operator’s license, OVI, reckless operation, failure to comply

Eight arrests included felony charges:

  • 2 felony warrants, 1 aggravated possession of drugs, 1 carrying a concealed weapon, 2 felony fleeing charges

One stolen firearm was recovered

One individual was charged with OVI

One of the individuals arrested was missing from a nearby county in Ohio

One of the individuals was eight years old

Five dirt bikes were stolen

Thirty-four ATVs and dirt bikes have been impounded and are being held as evidence

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As far as statistics for enforcement so far in 2023, Klein's team shared that there have been 54 misdemeanor traffic citations, five misdemeanor court summons, four felony arrests, three arrests on warrants, five firearms seized, and 13 vehicles impounded. These numbers are from Operation Burnout.

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