ASHTABULA — While Congress prepares to debate the federal assault-weapons ban, City Council is pursuing a ban of its own.
The first reading of an ordinance revision officially prohibiting people from carrying certain knives, pellet guns, dart guns, slingshots and billy clubs in the city limits was heard by council at Monday night’s meeting — but not without some controversy.
“It’s a violation of the Second Amendment,” said Don Smith, one of several area residents who attended the meeting to protest the revision.
City Solicitor Michael Franklin presented the proposal to council’s safety forces committee after some discussion with city police officers, said Ward 1 Councilman Rick Balog, who also chairs the safety forces committee.
“There was a problem with certain individuals carrying machetes around and there was no legislation to deal with it,” Balog said. “We’re talking about people who are carrying these weapons with a criminal intent.”
He explained the new ordinance deals with “a gravity knife, butterfly knife or any knife fitted with mechanical device for automatic release of the blade, opening the knife and locking the knife in the open position, commonly known as a switchblade.”
The ordinance also specifies any knife with a blade in excess of 4.5 inches, thus taking care of the machete problem, Balog said.
Some of the spectators argued with Balog before the council meeting, saying the police may take the measure too far and confiscate weapons when there is no need to do so.
President J.P. Ducro IV said, “The intent is not to go after someone because they have it, but if someone is using it in an intimidating manner, the police can take care of it.”
One unidentified man said the ordinance was unconstitutional.
“I think you are making molehills into mountains,” Balog said.
The new version only adds the following: billy club, including batons or sticks connected or chain, commonly referred to as “nunchaku” or “nunchucks,” a dart gun, a pellet gun, a sap, a gravity knife, a butterfly knife and a knife with a blade in excess of three inches in length from the guard or handle to the tip.
“It is not a violation to have any of the above items secured in the trunk or in a compartment separate from the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle occupied by the alleged offender,” the proposed legislation states.
Jason Keeler, who owns property in the city, asked about shooting pellet guns for recreation.
“It’s not illegal to shoot a pellet gun at a target in your backyard,” Balog said, noting you can carry a pellet gun in your car trunk with no problems.
Both versions of the ordinance do not apply to police officers and both state anyone who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.