Should gun owners in Ohio be permitted to “carry” their firearms in their homes while intoxicated?
That’s the question at issue in a case headed for the Ohio Supreme Court in February.
Fredrick Weber was convicted in June of 2018 under a 45-year-old law that prohibits Ohio residents from carrying or using a firearm while intoxicated. Weber appealed his conviction to the 12th District Court of Appeals, which confirmed the municipal court’s ruling. Now, on a 4-3 vote, the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.
According to court documents, a deputy and a sergeant from the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Weber’s home after his wife reported that her husband was carrying a firearm while intoxicated. Even though she told deputies that Weber had put his firearm away, she let them into the home, where they saw Weber coming out of a doorway and holding a shotgun.
The shotgun was pointed towards the ground, and deputies confirmed that it was unloaded. Weber claimed he had been wiping down the firearm to put it away.
Deputies noticed that Weber’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy, his speech was slurred, and he was unsteady on his feet. Weber admitted he was drunk and subsequently failed a field sobriety test.
In his appeal, Weber’s attorneys argued that their client wasn’t using the shotgun “as a firearm” and had not or was not about to commit a crime. They also argued that the law prohibiting the use or possession of firearms while intoxicated is unconstitutional because it infringed on their client’s rights to keep and bear arms and defend himself.
They further argued that a person’s intoxication level shouldn’t have a bearing on possessing a weapon “in the hearth and home,” according to the Associated Press.
“Weber suggests that it was never the intention of the constitutional framers that someone like him (or anyone similarly situated) be guilty of possessing a weapon while intoxicated in his/her home,” Weber’s appeal reads, according to The Toledo Blade.
“If such be the case, any off-duty law enforcement officer (or any other person that has firearms in the residence) who has a few alcoholic beverages while in his/her house and has law enforcement happen into that residence can be charged and convicted under a ritualistic or formulaic implementation of the statute,” it reads.
Cities in Ohio are defending the state law. They argue that the law provides a necessary tool for law enforcement officers responding to dangerous, alcohol-soaked incidents.
“Their police officers are the first to respond to domestic violence incidents, interpersonal gun violence, gun suicides, and unintentional shootings, all of which are made more lethal by the combination of guns and alcohol,” reads a brief filed by Toledo, Lima, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, and Dayton, according to The Blade. “They are the ones who have to respond to domestic violence calls where the mixture of guns and alcohol often leads to women being killed and officers being assaulted.”
Toledo Law Director Dale Emch put an even finer point on it:
“It’s just common sense that the intoxicated should not be carrying weapons in my mind, whether in your home or not,” he said. “That’s just a bad recipe.”
Oral arguments aren’t scheduled until February 25, and a final decision isn’t expected for months, according to the AP.