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Cincinnati bump-stock ban struck down in latest battle over gun rights

In this March 15, 2019, file photo, a bump stock is displayed in Harrisonburg, Va. In the days...
In this March 15, 2019, file photo, a bump stock is displayed in Harrisonburg, Va. In the days and weeks leading up to the ban on bump stocks that took effect Tuesday, March 26, 2019, tens of thousands of the devices were destroyed by owners or handed over to authorities. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)(Steve Helber | AP)
Updated: Nov. 25, 2020 at 3:59 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - An Ohio appeals court dealt another blow Tuesday to Cincinnati’s bump-stock ban.

The appellate judges upheld a Hamilton County trial court’s 2019 ruling against the ban, reasoning the bump-stocks — i.e. trigger activators — are essential to the function of at least some guns and therefore cannot be regulated without violating the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

Read the ruling here.

The city ordinance passed in April 2018 in the wake of an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas during which a gunman used a bump stock to kill 60 people.

It bans the ownership, possession, sale or use of trigger activators such as bump stocks, trigger cranks and slide-fire devices. These devices are “designed to dramatically increase the firing rate of otherwise legal weapons to the firing speed of unlawful weapons.”

Ohio has no statutory ban on licensed automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

The ordinance creates a misdemeanor offense for any violation.

Ohio’s revised code establishes gun ownership as an individual right and specifically preempts local gun laws. Guns, according to ORC, include gun components and ammunition.

Cincinnati’s ordinance reasons the state statute “does not restrict municipal regulations on firearm accessories or attachments, and trigger activators are not firearm components or parts that are essential to the function of a weapon, but rather are optional aftermarket accessories that may be purchased to modify the operation of a firearm.”

Several plaintiffs, including Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Ohioans for Concealed Carry, sued the city over the ban.

The plaintiffs argued trigger activators are integral parts of a gun for two reasons, the first philosophical and the second practical: they affect the function of the gun; and guns can be custom-built such that a “drop-in” trigger mechanism is the only means of firing.

The city continued the ordinance’s line of reasoning, that the devices are generally aftermarket accessories, though the appellate ruling notes the city’s expert witnesses admitted certain firearms are manufactured with trigger activators.

The plaintiffs won an injunction and summary judgment in a Hamilton County court of common pleas last year.

The trial court ruling held that “[w]hen an object that affects the use and function of a firearm becomes attached to the firearm it becomes a component.”

The appellate ruling sidesteps that argument. Rather than dealing with the essentiality of the accessories, the court said it was enough that guns can be custom-made with the accessories and that the ban renders those guns nonfunctional.

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