Ohio voters may decide whether to require background checks for gun purchases as well as deem if President Donald Trump deserves another term in the 2020 election.

Ohioans for Gun Safety announced Monday it is filing a petition that would effectively require background checks for all gun sales online and at gun shows.

The measure, entitled "An Act to Close Loopholes in Background Checks on Gun Sales," is designed as an initiated statute.

That means supporters must gather enough valid signatures of registered Ohio voters to equal at least 3 percent of the total vote cast in the most recent gubernatorial election, roughly 135,000 signatures. The names must come from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties and represent 1.5 percent of the total vote for governor in each of those counties.

If the threshold is met, the General Assembly has four months to consider the proposal. If it is not acted upon, fails to pass or passes in an amended form, the petitioners can mount a second petition drive to put the proposed law on the ballot. Another 135,000 signatures are necessary.

The proposal would add a "Weapons Control" section to the Ohio Revised Code that would require involvement of a firearms dealer in nearly every gun purchase and a background check.

“The polling has shown that even people who are gun owners and strong Second Amendment rights people believe that this is not an intrusive idea," said Dennis Willard, a spokesman for the gun safety group. "We think very much that people will support this."

A 2017 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of gun owners in the United States strongly or somewhat favor background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows. Support is even stronger among the public at large. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 96 percent of Americans support universal background checks.

Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, is skeptical about the benefit of the proposal, saying it addresses an issue that does not exist.

"There is no gun show loophole," he said. "The rules to buying and selling guns at gun shows are the same to buy a gun at a gun store or out of the back of a car or a garage or anywhere else. The most common way criminals get their guns is stealing them. So what will this law do to stop those bad criminals from getting guns? Nothing."

 

Proposed rules

The language in the proposed addition states that "No person shall sell or transfer a firearm and no person shall purchase or receive a firearm" unless a firearms dealer is selling a gun, buying a gun or facilitating a purchase between two individuals who are not firearms dealers themselves.

This facilitation requirement appears directly aimed at online and gun show purchases, some of which do not involve a firearms dealer. Under the proposed change, the seller would be required to deliver the firearm to a dealer to conduct the purchase.

The dealer would then conduct a background check and meet any other requirements that would apply in a standard purchase from the dealer. If the purchaser does not pass the background check, the dealer will return the firearm to the seller. The seller cannot then sell the firearm to that purchaser.

The measure also would require dealers to maintain records of sales and background checks. No dealer would be required to conduct a sale or transfer.

Anyone who takes part in a purchase that violates the proposed addition would be guilty of illegal transfer of a firearm and subject to either 30 days in jail or a fine up to $250 or both on the first offense with increasing penalties for repeat offenses.

 

Exceptions to rules

The addition includes several exceptions:

• Transfers that are bona fide gifts between family members.

• Transfers to prevent death, suicide or imminent physical injury, provided it is only as long as necessary to prevent such injury.

• Transfers to a federally licensed gunsmith for repair or maintenance, provided the firearm is returned.

• Sales or transfers of antique firearms or a curio or relic.

• Various temporary transfers including for less than 24 hours, hunting purposes, training and safety classes, use at a shooting range and use at shooting competitions.

• Sales or transfers to a federally licensed gun manufacturer.

• Sales or transfers to a person who holds a valid concealed handgun license, provided that a background check was required to obtain the license.

• Sales or transfers to those authorized by law to possess a firearm in the course of and acting within the scope of their employment or official duties, including law enforcement personnel, state-licensed security guards and active-duty Ohio National Guard or U.S. armed forces members.

• Transfers where the person transferring is authorized to do so on behalf of a law enforcement agency.

• Transfers by operation of law upon the death of the owner.

 

Contact Ben Deeter at bdeeter@dispatch.com. On Twitter: @BenDeeter.