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Updated: Gun Rights Organization Sues Cleveland Heights

Ohioans For Concealed Carry wants the city to take down its signs from parks and repeal specific gun laws

Updated: Gun Rights Organization Sues Cleveland Heights

Updated 12:50 p.m. Thursday

A gun rights organization has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland Heights because it believes the city has firearm-related laws that conflict with state laws.

According to the complaint filed by Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Cleveland Heights resident and gun owner Philip Mulivor Friday, more than a dozen  Cleveland Heights ordinances violate the Ohio Revised Code, including ones that prohibit guns in public parks, require gun owners obtain a city ID card, and mandate that dealers follow city record-keeping requirements and get a license to sell guns.

Chris Harben, compliance coordinator for the nonprofit organization, said he and others from the OFCC have been calling the city since 2007 about a specific violation — signs in public parks that ban weapons. 

“I had a conversation with the law director myself trying to get this resolved ... There was at least three attempts to resolve this without having to go to court,” Harben said, adding that the last conversation was in May.

Harben asked that the city take them down. 

Normally the OFCC tries to explain the laws to cities first, and most comply.             

“We don’t currently have a problem like this anywhere else in the state at this point,” Harben said. He’s had to take one other city to court because of signs, he said.

“If we find the sign, it’s a conversation and usually something reasonable … But Cleveland Heights, they seem to not want to be reasonable.” 

Law Director John Gibbon said the only complaint he received over the phone was regarding the signs in , and the organization made no mention of the ordinances. 

"I’ve had no conversation with anyone about all of these other ordinances that they are suggesting are illegal. I certainly will be required to give those attention to resolve this lawsuit, and if any of them are no longer in compliance with the changes in Ohio law, we will certainly change our ordinances so we are in compliance with current law, and either will do that by repealing them or amending them" Gibbon said.

But Jeff Garvas, president of the OFCC, said he sent a letter dated Sept. 29, 2008, to Mayor Ed Kelley, City Manager Robert Downey and Gibbon, and sent a copy to Cleveland Heights Patch.

"… A cursory review of Cleveland Heights ordinances suggests that numerous sections of Chapter 551 need to be amended or repealed with respect to firearms. Specifically, Cleveland Heights’s handgun registration card, dealer licensing, records of firearms dealers, possession in public places, and virtually every restriction the city has enacted are preempted by ORC 9.68," Garvas wrote in the letter. 

Gibbon said some of the statements in the complaint are not accurate, including one that said he told the OFCC over the phone that he disagreed with Ohio Revised Code 9.68, which outlines gun owner rights. 

"The main plaintiff, who is a Cleveland Heights resident, as far as I know from reading the complaint has not been harmed or inconvenienced," said Gibbon, explaining that according to the complaint, no one has been arrested or charged for violating a city law that is conflicts with state law. "I certainly will look at the ordinances at issue, and we will certainly take care of them if they are no longer in compliance with current law."

The suit was filed Friday in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, and forwarded to City Hall Monday, according to the Common Pleas Court website. 

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