Gun rights advocate found guilty
Wood County man carried pistol into Toledo park to challenge law
A Wood County man who carried a loaded handgun in Ottawa Park to challenge Toledo’s ban on concealed weapons in city parks was convicted yesterday of a misdemeanor gun charge.
Toledo Municipal Court Judge Gene Zmuda found Bruce Beatty had violated a city ordinance that prohibits people from possessing concealed weapons in parks. He was fined $50 and ordered to pay court costs, which was stayed pending an appeal.
The trial was held after Judge Zmuda ruled the city ordinance doesn’t conflict with a state law that allows adults with permits to carry concealed weapons. He said the city has the authority under its home-rule power to prohibit guns in parks.
Wearing a 45-caliber pistol in a holster under his jacket, Mr. Beatty, of Luckey, Ohio, was cited on April 9 in Ottawa Park, where he sponsored a party to challenge the ban on concealed weapons in parks.
Bruce Beatty removes his pistol from its holster during the picnic in April in Ottawa Park.
Mr. Beatty said after the trial that he would continue to fight the ordinance through an appeal to the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals.
“I have complete respect for Judge Zmuda, but I am in total conflict with his decision. He said the ordinance is not in conflict with the general law and it does not prohibit me from doing what the law specifically says I can do, when, in fact, it does prohibit me because the law says I can carry a handgun anywhere in the state,’’ he said.
The law, which went in effect on April 8, 2004, specifically prohibits concealed weapons in schools, government buildings, and places of worships, but does not mention parks. The city’s ordinance banning guns in parks was enacted in 1996.
Before learning his sentence, Mr. Beatty told the court that he was not attempting to flout or break the law when he carried the gun into the park, but instead hoped to make public officials accountable in complying with the concealed-carry law.
However, Judge Zmuda said Mr. Beatty was clearly aware of the ban of weapons in parks and went to the park wearing a firearm, knowing it was in violation of the park regulation.
“To suggest that you were being duped somehow I think is really a mischaracterization of what happened here. You wanted to confront the issue. You wanted a ruling of some kind. You now have your ruling. The appellate courts will decide if the ruling will stand,” he said.
The judge’s decision upholding the city’s bans on guns in city parks was made in response to a request from Mr. Beatty to dismiss the case. The decision was issued before the hearing.
William Stephenson, an attorney representing Mr. Beatty, said the decision was contrary to the opinion of Ohio Attorney Jim Petro that the concealed-weapons statute was passed as a general law.
“But [Judge Zmuda] turns around and finds that it is not a general law. I am surprised and shocked at the decision. The city ordinance is in direct conflict with the state statute, but the court finds that there is no conflict,” Mr. Stephenson said.