Council approves gun ordinance language

Councilman John
Zanfardino (left) proposes possible amendments to Ordinace 8335 near Councilman Daniel Gordon (right)
during a city council meeting. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)

City council voted unanimously Monday on new guns in parks language that they hope will be a silver
bullet for the issue.
“I feel that this substitution bill represents the feeling of council and representatives of the
community who have spoken to us,” said Councilwoman Sandy Rowland after introducing the substituted
“A lot of thinking when into this… a lot of reading at night and struggling how to best address this in a
way that best satisfies our community.”
The idea of an ordinance removing a restriction on guns in parks incited vocal public comment and much
discussion among council members in recent months. After some on council said the issue required more
examination before a scheduled vote last month, the matter was tabled with the aim of taking up the
subject again Monday.
The new ordinance brings the city into compliance with the Ohio Revised Code and rulings by the Ohio
Supreme Court. The old standing ordinance did not allow guns, or similar related items, in parks, which
conflicted with state law.
The issue reportedly resulted after an escalating exchange of emails on the subject with a gun-rights
activist. Similar issues have taken place in municipalities throughout the state.
Officials had previously indicated that, if the old ordinance was not changed, Bowling Green could become
subject to a lawsuit – one, they said, the city almost certainly could not win. The city of Clyde lost a
lawsuit brought by Ohioans for Open Carry in 2008 concerning a similar matter; a Clyde official told the
Sentinel-Tribune that the city paid a substantial sum in attorney fees. A number discussed by Bowling
Green officials and media reports was $70,000.

Councilwoman Sandy
Rowland (right) discusses Ordinace 8335 with Councilman Bruce Jeffers (left) during a city council
meeting Monday, July 21, 2014.

The new language as adopted – found in section 97.05, Recreational Activities, of the Codified Ordinances
under “Hunting” – states that “no person shall hunt, trap or otherwise pursue wild life within park
property, nor shall any person use, carry or possess within park property any form of weapon in
violation of the Ohio Revised Code.”
“It does leave room for change if we ever want to restrict the law more,” said Rowland.
Councilman John Zanfardino initially asked that the language be amended further, adding back in a list of
other prohibited items from the old ordinance, including air rifles, spring guns, paintball guns, bows
and arrows and slings, “things that we may start to see more of from a less mature crowd if we don’t
have some language in there guarding these other dangerous objects.”
Council discussed the virtues of such an addition for some minutes before asking that Police Chief Brad
Conner offer his thoughts.
Conner noted that even if the list of items was not in the ordinance, if such items were used in a
threatening manner an individual could be cited or charged. He said there was a complaint of an air
rifle in City Park a year ago, and that the incident ended with no charges being filed.
“I read the proposed ordinance a couple weeks ago and I was comfortable with it,” he said.
Zanfardino eventually agreed with the ordinance, and his motion regarding the language was voted down
largely as a matter of procedure. Zanfardino served as the only ‘yes’ vote.
Prior to the vote adopting the new language, Councilman Bruce Jeffers said he wanted the community to
know “we are conforming with state law. I don’t want people to have the impression that we are able to
make parks safer than we are, vis-a-vis the state law.”