Warren Co. court affirms Lebanon firearms ordinance

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

A Warren County judge has found that a 2020 ordinance enacted by Lebanon City Council that allows people with concealed firearms permits to carry their weapon in the Lebanon City Building outside of the hours the Municipal Court is in session is permissible.

Warren County Common Pleas Judge Timothy Tepe granted summary judgment for the city of Lebanon in an order Tuesday that said the ordinance was enacted within the city’s home rule authority as a charter city.

Tepe said in his ruling that “...there is no conflict with state or local law, the Court finds this Ordinance is a valid exercise of the City of Lebanon’s Home Rule Authority. Accordingly, the Court finds that there is no genuine issue as to material facts and Defendants are entitled to judgment as matter of law as to Count One.”

Tepe also ruled that while residents David Iannelli and Brooke Handley have standing to bring this suit, the court found “that there was no genuine issue as to material fact,” and the city was properly exercising its Home Rule Authority and the defendants were entitled to summary judgment in their favor.

A third resident, Carol Donovan, was voluntarily dismissed from the suit on Aug. 25, 2022 as she had moved out of the city. The residents filed their motion for summary judgment on Sept. 14, 2022 and were represented by Everytown Law, the litigation arm for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. The civil suit was filed on March 31, 2022.

“The residents of Lebanon that we represent made it clear: they want to be able to engage in the democratic process without fear of violence. The court’s decision to allow concealed carry in these locations is a clear threat to public safety,” said Len Kamdang, director of litigation strategy and trials for Everytown Law.

City Law Director Mark Yurick said he was “pleased with the decision... It’s a fairly narrowly drawn decision based on a unique set of facts.”

The residents were challenging the 2020 ordinance enacted by Lebanon City Council that ended a longstanding prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in the City Building, located at 50 N. Broadway. The residents claimed because the Lebanon Municipal Court is located in the same building, carrying a concealed weapon in such government buildings was prohibited under state law. They named the city and Yurick as defendants in the lawsuit.

According to lawsuit, the residents sent a letter to Yurick requesting his office seek an injunction “requiring the city to comply with Ohio law and return to its prohibition on the possession of firearms within the City Building.”

However, on March 2, 2021, the city responded by letter and stated that it declined to seek injunctive relief, which resulted in the residents filing their civil action and the city filing a motion to dismiss.

In November 2021, city officials tried to have the court dismiss the taxpayer lawsuit.

In the denial of the city’s motion to dismiss, Tepe said the residents properly brought the lawsuit forward and state law allows a municipal taxpayer “may institute suit in his own name, on behalf of the municipal corporation” in order to restrain the municipalities’ abuse of corporate power.

Tepe also said the residents have stated a claim, which if proven, may entitle them to relief, in finding the city’s motion to dismiss is not well taken. He also said the residents have standing to bring their declaratory judgment claim and that they have adequately stated a claim for declaratory judgment.

“[T]he Court finds that there is a genuine dispute as to the legal validity of the ordinance. Further, it is not disputed by either party that plaintiffs’ and defendants’ interest in this dispute are adverse. Further, the ordinance has taken effect and is currently in place. Thus, the controversy is immediate and real,” Tepe said in the decision.

In Monday’s decision, the court agreed with the city that the room used as the courtroom is also used as a multi-purpose room for other city functions such as City Council, Planning Commission and other meetings of governmental bodies. The city said when the court is in session, the room is transformed to the requirements of the Ohio Rules of Superintendence for courts which requires an elevated bench, an enclosed jury area, two tables and a security metal detector.

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