The Columbus Dispatch
Ohioans have never voted on a statewide ballot issue on guns. It’s time they did.
So it’s good that Ohioans for Gun Safety plans to qualify a ballot issue, perhaps as early as November 2020, to require background checks on sales and transfers of firearms.
The broad-based coalition has filed the required petition with the Ohio attorney general to begin gathering signatures of registered voters.
The proposal is for an initiated statute, which would add a background check law to the Ohio Revised Code.
That’s preferable to a constitutional amendment. The Ohio Constitution already is cluttered with too many statutory-like provisions.
For many years, national and state polls consistently have shown broad bipartisan support for background checks for gun sales.
It’s disappointing the legislature in recent years has ignored public opinion and instead passed one law after another to weaken the state’s existing gun safety laws.
Most Ohioans would favor the proposal being advanced by Ohioans for Gun Safety. The coalition spent more than two years studying background check laws in other states and surveying Ohioans on how best to craft a law for our state.
The proposal would require sales and transfers of firearms in Ohio be conducted by a federally licensed firearms dealer so the buyer or recipient is subjected to a federal background check. It also would require dealers to maintain records on sales and transfers.
However, the proposal makes several exceptions for transfers between family members, transfers of antiques, temporary transfers for hunting and temporary transfers for repairs.
Since 1994, federal law has required federally licensed gun dealers to run background checks on gun purchasers. In 1998, a new FBI electronic database enabled most searches within two minutes.
The federal background checks have stopped millions of gun sales to prohibited purchasers — mostly convicted felons, domestic abusers and those judged mentally ill.
In recent years, however, an estimated 1 in 5 gun sales has occurred outside the network of federally licensed dealers, such as at gun shows. This loophole needs to be closed.
Background checks cannot prevent every gun-related tragedy or mass shooting, but research shows they slow the acquisition of guns by those who should not have them.
Under the state’s initiated-statute law, Ohioans for Gun Safety first must collect 132,887 signatures of registered voters — 3 percent of the number who voted in the 2018 election for governor. That would give the legislature four months to consider adopting the proposal without a public vote.
If lawmakers failed to act, the coalition would have to collect another 132,887 signatures to get on the ballot.
Every Ohioan can do something to reduce gun violence. A good start would be to sign the petition and vote for common sense background checks.