Ohio lawmakers, despite much prodding by former Gov. John Kasich, failed to implement any substantial gun-control measures during Kasich’s two terms in office.
But our elected representatives likely will have another chance under Gov. Mike DeWine, now that a grassroots group’s effort is pushing the envelope to require background checks on most gun sales.
Ohioans for Gun Safety has refiled paperwork with the Ohio attorney general’s office to encourage legislators to address the background check issue. If that doesn’t work, the matter could proceed as an initiated statute and appear on a statewide ballot in 2020 or 2021. Voters would then decide.
The attorney general previously rejected the summary language on the proposed petition, but the grassroots group quickly made revisions and submitted over 1,700 signatures. More would be needed if it goes to the ballot.
Dennis Willard, spokesperson for Ohioans for Gun Safety, says studies have shown that background checks reduce gun violence and save lives, and the majority of Ohioans now support them.
According to FindLaw, a combination of federal and state gun control laws regulate the purchase and use of firearms throughout the country.
Ohio laws already prohibit certain weapons while restricting gun purchases and ownership by certain individuals. But the state does not require a waiting period prior to purchasing a gun and only requires background checks for guns purchased from federally licensed dealers.
If someone buys from a private seller or unlicensed dealership, they are not required to have a background check. If the buyer is subject to a background check, it is performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System database to make sure the buyer is eligible.
The language of the Ohioans for Gun Safety issue provides exceptions for transfers between family members, transfers of antiques and certain other situations, but it would close the private seller or unlicensed dealer loophole.
In 2018, Kasich signed two executive orders intended to improve controls on gun buyers in Ohio. Both orders followed recommendations of a nonpartisan panel Kasich established to find common ground on gun policy, but neither led lawmakers to pass any gun-control legislation.
Ballot initiatives have advanced in Ohio when other issues of public concern have not been taken up at the Statehouse. Casino gambling, for example, was approved by voters in 2009 after lawmakers failed to act.
More recently, an effort was made by out-of-state interests that backed legalization of recreational marijuana in 2015. While the statewide issue was turned down by voters, it got the attention of lawmakers, who approved a restrictive medical marijuana bill the next year.
It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond this time.
The better path forward on background checks would seem to be through legislative channels, which would allow an open debate on the issue. Compromises could be reached between those who favor gun control and those who don’t.
It will soon be time for our reps to step up to the plate. If they balk, voters may have no choice but to do the heavy lifting, again.