Eugene Volokh takes a look at this week’s Ohio Supreme Court case striking down Cleveland’s anti-gun laws. It seems that Ohio’s appeals court was making a novel argument. The Ohio constitution provides that municipalities have the right to make their own legislation, provided it does not conflict with “general laws”, which have been interpreted to mean “part of a statewide and comprehensive legislative enactment.”
The appeals court claimed that Ohio’s law, which allows individuals to own guns, was not “comprehensive” precisely because it left a “great deal of firearm activity unregulated.” In other words, the appeals court argued that a state law was comprehensive, and therefore binding on local governments, only to the extent that it restricted individuals. Conversely, a law that protects individual liberty is not binding on local governments.
This would be a very dangerous principle, in practice and theory. The practical consequence is obvious: every person would be subject to the maximum restriction attempted by any government. But the idea behind it is perhaps even more troubling: it says no government scheme is complete unless it is telling people what they can and cannot do. This is not an American idea. I’m glad it was struck down.