Ohio voters may decide on gun background checks

Ohio voters could weigh in requiring universal background checks for gun purchases if a citizens group collects enough signatures to get the issue on the statewide ballot.

Ohioans for Gun Safety, a grassroots group, is launching a campaign to gather 132,887 valid signatures from registered voters to present a citizen-initiated statute to the Ohio General Assembly.

The proposed law would mandate background checks for firearms sales, including private party sales and purchases made at gun shows.

Federally licensed firearms dealers, who would be tapped to conduct the background checks, would be allowed to charge a reasonable fee.

Licensed dealers are required under federal law to conduct background checks to make sure the buyer doesn’t have a criminal record, mental health history or other disqualifying condition. But private parties and unlicensed sellers aren’t required to conduct those checks.

The proposed law would provide exceptions for transfers between family members, transfers of antiques or relics and temporary transfers for hunting or repairs of the gun.

Ohio lawmakers have expanded gun rights over the past decade and have eschewed calls for gun restrictions.

Related: Kasich calls for major changes to Ohio gun laws, says 'it's a different day'

Dennis Willard, spokesman for Ohioans for Gun Safety, said the proposal is narrowly tailored to address a gun control measure that has wide public support.

Multiple polls show that roughly 90 percent of Americans favor mandatory background checks for gun purchases.

Here is how the citizen-initiated statute process works:

After the first batch of signatures is collected, the General Assembly has 120 days to adopt the proposed law, adopt an amended version or ignore it.

If it’s not adopted as is, petitioners may collect another 132,887 signatures from voters who didn’t sign the original petition and place the measure on the statewide ballot.

Willard said the group aims to put the issue before voters in either November 2020 or November 2021.

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