(CNSNews.com) - A 150-year-old state law prohibiting Ohio residents from carrying concealed weapons was ruled unconstitutional Thursday, but the decision of Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruelhman applies only to "law-abiding citizens within Hamilton County."
"There is no doubt that the very thought a potential victim might possess a firearm deters that element of our society that cares nothing about laws or human life but rather understands only one thing - brute force," Ruehlman wrote in his decision.
In ordering Hamilton County police officers to stop enforcing the ban on concealed weapons, Ruehlman said he agreed with a private investigator and some Cincinnati residents who had argued that the law infringed on their right to protect themselves.
Ruehlman's ruling does not apply to criminals or those under court-order not to carry weapons.
State, county, and local attorneys vowed to appeal the judge's decision.
"It's been our position from the beginning that this is a matter that should be dealt with in the (Ohio) legislature," Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said in a statement.
The primary litigant in the suit was Cincinnati private investigator Chuck Klein who believes the United States Constitution gives him the right to carry a gun, concealed or otherwise.
Joining Klein in the suit were several Cincinnati residents and a pro-gun group called the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).
"This is one of the greatest victories for the Second Amendment Foundation and the citizens of Ohio," stated SAF Founder Alan Gottlieb. "Not since SAF forced the city of Los Angeles to begin issuing concealed carry licenses have we earned such a clear win, and it feels great to strike down a gun control law using the Ohio Constitution."
But, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence blasted Ruehlman's decision.
"The judge's ruling runs counter to common-sense and to the wishes of Ohio police and the Ohio legislature. Unless it is corrected on appeal, this decision not only places Cincinnati law enforcement at risk, it endangers the lives of ordinary citizens," said Dennis Henigan, Director of the Brady Center's Legal Action Project.
A proposal to legalize the carrying of a concealed weapon in Ohio has languished in the state legislature for several years, but, according to National Rifle Association spokerperson Kelly Whitley, the court ruling "is all the more reason for the legislature to take up this issue."
Ohio Republican Governor Bob Taft has said he would only sign such a measure only with the support of law enforcement.