CINCINNATI A state appeals court on Wednesday
declared Ohio's decades-old ban on carrying concealed weapons unconstitutional because it
violates the right to self defense.
The framers of the Ohio constitution "put the citizens' rights
up front," said Mark Painter, presiding judge of the 1st Ohio District Court of
Appeals. "We believe they meant what they said."
Ohio's attorney general asked the state Supreme Court for an
immediate delay of the ruling to hear an appeal, said spokesman Joe Case.
Lawyers for Cincinnati, Hamilton County and the state had argued that
government has the right to regulate the manner in which weapons are carried.
The appeals court upheld Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert
Ruehlman's Jan. 10 ruling that the state ban was unenforceable in the county. The ban
includes both carrying a concealed weapon and having a loaded weapon in a vehicle.
The court also said the ban is confusing to citizens and police,
making it likely that various agencies would enforce the law differently.
"I feel like a burden's been lifted off my shoulders," said
Pat Feely, 31, a food delivery truck and one of five people who challenged the law.
"I feel like I don't risk arrest."
Feely was arrested in 1999 because he kept a gun in his waistband
while delivering pizzas.
Ohio allows only law enforcement officials and state and federal
government officers to carry concealed weapons.
The plaintiffs, who include a private investigator, say their jobs
take them into areas where they need self defense. Their attorneys also argued that
conflicting enforcement by different police agencies makes it difficult for people to know
how to exercise their constitutional right to self defense.
They said Cincinnati police have arrested people for carrying
concealed weapons, and city officers have testified they probably would arrest someone who
tried to openly carry a weapon.
A State Highway Patrol officer testified that the patrol has caught
motorists carrying loaded guns and let them go.
Forty-three states allow concealed weapons in some form.