OBERLIN — Oberlin City Council recently approved paying $31,000 to a gun-rights group for its legal fees after a lawsuit over an Oberlin gun ordinance.
The settlement came after Ohioans for Concealed Carry Inc.’s victory in a lawsuit challenging a 1998 city ordinance banning guns in Oberlin’s public parks.
Ohioans for Concealed Carry representatives attended a City Council meeting in September 2013 after discovering the 1998 ordinance.
Council amended the ordinance at the meeting, but Ohioans for Concealed Carry members said the change was too vague. The revision banned “unlawful” possession of firearms in city parks.
As a result, the organization and Ashland residents Brian and Janae Kuzawa sued the city in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in October 2013.
In February 2014, Lorain County Common Pleas Court ruled that in its form at the time of being passed into law, the ordinance was valid. It was passed before Ohio Revised Code 9.68 became state law in 2007 and created uniform firearm laws throughout the state. The state law, which does not prohibit firearms in parks, overrides local restrictions on firearms, including the Oberlin restrictions.
In May 2015, the Ohioans for Concealed Carry sought to have its legal fees paid — noting to the court of appeals that Oberlin City Council changed the ordinance because of its lawsuit and it was entitled to the city paying its legal fees.
Ahead of the next hearing on the matter, City Law Director Jon Clark negotiated a settlement with the organization to pay $31,000. The city might be able to win that case, but there still was uncertainty, Clark said Monday.
Because of that uncertainty, Clark suggested the city pay the bill or possibly face a higher penalty at the case’s resolution.
Council President Bryan Burgess said Monday the settlement was an educated and financial decision.
“As distasteful as I find this to be, I do believe that this is the right thing to do,” Burgess said.