The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 19, 2013

Ashtabula City Council tables action on weapons ban

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — City Council tabled action Monday night on proposed amendments to a city ordinance banning people from carrying certain weapons.

The legislation had become a bit controversial, drawing comments from residents and non-residents at the first reading of the ordinance two weeks ago. The second reading of the ordinance was on tap at Monday night’s meeting, but council decided to table the discussion for now.

“Several communications came into the office,” President J.P. Ducro IV said. “We want to get it right.”

Ward 1 Councilman Rick Balog, who chairs the safety committee, where the proposal originated, was absent from Monday night’s meeting. Ducro said the safety committee decided Friday that it wanted to table the issue for now.

City Solicitor Michael Franklin said the changes are constitutional and there’s no reason not to move ahead with the revisions.

The proposed ordinance revision officially prohibited people from carrying certain knives, pellet guns, dart guns, slingshots and billy clubs in the city limits.

Franklin first presented the proposal to council’s safety forces committee after some discussion with city police officers, who were having problems with suspects carrying long knives and machetes.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Ann Stranman said she believed the people who opposed the ordinance at the March 4 meeting were making “much ado about nothing.”

Balog has said the proposed changes were intended to help the police deal with “people who are carrying those 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 new, proposed ordinance also specified any knife with a blade in excess of 4.5 inches, thus taking care of the machete problem.

The proposed ordinance only added the following words: billy club, including batons or sticks connected or chain, 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.

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.