COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – An effort that could bring an initiated statute before voters at the next presidential election is underway. It would give them the power to force background checks to be made on private sales of guns.
The group Ohioans for Gun Safety is backing the measure announced Monday.
Before it does anything, the group will need to gather 132,877 total signatures from at least half of the counties in Ohio.
With those in hand, it can take the measure to the legislature and give lawmakers a chance to create the law.
If lawmakers decline to do so, an additional 132,877 signatures can be gathered and the issue put on the ballot for voters to decide.
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Some lawmakers, like State Representative Shane Wilkin — a Republican from Hillsboro, don’t like the idea that someone outside the Statehouse would create the law. They say that’s their responsibility.
But lawmakers haven’t dealt with this issue, despite it being brought up in legislation.
Wilkin says the need for the measure is overblown.
“I don’t think that it’s as big a problem as everybody wants to make it out to be.”
Wilkin doesn’t believe gun violence is going to be curbed by forcing gun owners to use a federally licensed gun seller to conduct the private transaction and do a background check in the process.
“A person who is intent on breaking the law is not going to adhere to this anyway,” he said.
The measure would apply to gun shows and online sales, which have long been targeted by advocates. Opponents say this is an attack on the Second Amendment.
“We absolutely support the Second Amendment rights for gun ownership,” said Dennis Willard, a spokesman for Ohioans for Gun Safety. “This has nothing to do with gun ownership but we believe that people should pass a basic background check before they purchase a gun.”
According to Willard, this is not a final chance for the legislature but it may be its best chance to create legislation they can all agree on.
“This is basically a kick-start to the legislature, saying, ‘Hey, this is an issue that voters want, that your constituents want,'” Willard said. “If the legislature is paying attention to the people back home, then they’ll pass it. If they choose to pass on it, then we’ll go directly to the voters.”
Willard also says they have spent two years going around the state, figuring out what was going to derail this effort and have made concessions to avoid those things.
Exceptions to these proposed changes to the law include when a family member wants to pass a gun down to another family member as a gift. It also exempts antique guns that no longer work.
Willard says they have carefully constructed the measure to also avoid poison pills and hidden agendas.
“[People] just want something very simple and straightforward. That’s what we’re doing.”