By Jake Zuckerman and Ohio Capital Journal

Fourteen House Republicans signed onto legislation that would allow the state of Ohio to nix federal gun laws and court rulings that legislators deem to violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

House Bill 62 would declare any federal law, executive order, administrative action, or court ruling to be “null, void, and of no effect in this state” if it infringes upon the Second Amendment.

Legal acts that would qualify as infringements under the bill (the “Second Amendment Safe Haven Act”) include any of the following if they could “reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect.”

  • Any tax on guns, gun parts, or ammunition not common to other goods and services
  • Any registering or tracking of guns
  • Any registering or tracking of gun owners
  • Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, use or transfer of guns or ammo by law-abiding citizens
  • Any act ordering the confiscation of guns

The bill also prohibits law enforcement from enforcing any federal laws, court rulings, or orders that would qualify as infringements under the bill. If they do, they “shall be liable to the injured party in an action at law.”

It would prohibit a defense known as “qualified immunity,” which state employees claim as a defense for carrying out their official job duties.

Exactly how HB 62 would play out is unclear.

For instance, President Joe Biden last week announced planned executive actions to limit the proliferation of “ghost guns” made of homemade parts without traceable serial numbers. This would likely qualify as an infringement under HB 62, even if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule the executive action was constitutional. Judges or law enforcement tasked with enforcing the law would be caught in a legal pickle.

Analysts with the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan arm of the legislature that reviews legislation, determined the bulk of the law “may be vulnerable to challenge” under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal law precedence over state law.

Rob Sexton, legislative director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the bill reflects a General Assembly trying to get out in front of what they see as a looming barrage of gun control bills coming from Biden and a Democratically controlled federal government.

However, he offered lukewarm support of the bill and said courts would likely need to work out its contours.

“BFA supports what they’re trying to do,” he said. “We’re not sure exactly what the best way is to achieve this, that provides real protection for gun owners form federal overreach. But we’re definitely supportive of what it is they’re trying to accomplish.”

The bill is sponsored by GOP state Reps. Mike Loychik, of Bazetta, and Diane Grendell, of Chesterland.

“Especially with the current climate and rhetoric at the federal level, the preservation of our second amendment is now more crucial than ever before and it is my intent to protect this right for the people of Trumbull County,” Loychik said in a news release.

State lawmakers don’t get to pick and choose which federal laws will apply to our state, said Kristine Woodworth, volunteer with the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action, which advocates against gun violence.

If the recent rash of mass shootings across the country and the daily gun deaths right here in Ohio doesn’t wake up our state and federal lawmakers to the need for common-sense gun safety, I don’t know what will.” – Kristine Woodworth, volunteer with the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action

“This bill also includes provisions that threaten local law enforcement and officials with lawsuits, fines, and the loss of employment simply for doing their job.

“The majority of people in Ohio support common-sense public safety measures like background checks because they keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who we can all agree shouldn’t have them, like domestic abusers, people with violent criminal records, and people prohibited from owning a gun for mental health reasons. If the recent rash of mass shootings across the country and the daily gun deaths right here in Ohio doesn’t wake up our state and federal lawmakers to the need for common-sense gun safety, I don’t know what will.”

Gun advocates in Ohio are still coming off a high from a major win in the past several General Assembly sessions and have other long-sought policy aims in the hopper.

On Thursday, a House committee is scheduled to begin its review of separate gun legislation that would remove licensure requirements for Ohioans 21-and-older to carry a concealed weapon.

This comes after Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law “stand your ground” legislation earlier this year that removes the requirement to reasonably seek to retreat before responding to a perceived attack with deadly force. Other wins in the past two decades include establishing a concealed carry program, weakening requirements to obtain licensure within the program, and passing a state law that prohibits cities and counties from passing gun control legislation of their own.

Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.

The Ohio Capital Journal is a hard-hitting, independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives. The Capital Journal combines Ohio state government coverage with relentless investigative journalism, deep dives into the consequences of policy, political insight and principled commentary.Contact us: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com

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