John Kasich tried. Mike DeWine is trying. Now Ohioans for Gun Safety will make an attempt at sensible gun regulation. On Monday, the coalition of activist groups unveiled plans to place an initiated statute on the statewide ballot in 2020 or the following year. The proposal calls for strengthening the background check system in Ohio. It would do so by requiring that sales and transfers of firearms be conducted by a federally licensed firearms dealer.

As the group summarized for reporters: When it comes to buying a gun, a federally licensed dealer would need to be involved, and that dealer would run a background check.

Kasich sought improvements to the background check system (and other gun safety regulations) last year, as his tenure as governor approached its end. His successor, DeWine, has focused on gaining a “red flag” measure, allowing for the temporary removal of firearms from those deemed by a court to be a threat to themselves or others. Both have encountered fellow Republicans in charge of the legislature who are more interested in easing gun laws.

The idea of upgrading background checks shouldn’t be controversial, not in a country where gun violence rates as a public health emergency. And according to polls, public opinion is clear. Large majorities of gun owners and Americans as a whole support an expanded and better system. There is recognition of a simple notion: In the effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands, a well-conceived background check system is key.

Ohioans for Gun Safety faces, essentially, a two-part process. First, it must collect enough valid signatures, nearly 133,000, to put the proposed initiative before the legislature. Lawmakers would have four months to act. If they do not take up the proposal, or it fails to pass, or passes in an amended form, the petitioners would have the option of seeking another equal number of signatures to put the measure directly to voters.

Part of the process involves applying pressure to lawmakers. That was evident in the campaign to place redistricting reform on the ballot. It got the attention of the Statehouse, and lawmakers then took up the cause. In that way, this new drive for petition signatures is the necessary next step.

Will it work? For the moment, it is important to see through the fog generated by critics. Many contend there isn’t a problem to address, or that the changes to the background check system would make little difference. Actually, the gap is worth closing. All sales or transfers through a federally licensed dealer require background checks. Yet many transactions do not involve such dealers. Thus, the merit in the initiated statute. It would mandate the presence of a third party — a federally licensed dealer needed to make the transaction happen.

The failure to go through a dealer would be a crime.

The thinking isn’t that the measure would be a cure-all. Rather, it represents a responsible start, reflected, in part, by the reasonable exceptions, for instance, transfers that are gifts between family members and sales or transfers of antique firearms. More, there is research showing that background checks help to deter gun violence. For example, Missouri repealed its permit and private handgun sale background checks. Subsequently, the state experienced a sharp increase in its rate of homicides with handguns.

To be effective, a background check system must have up-to-date and complete data, something too often missing today, in Ohio and elsewhere. Yet it also is crucial to cover as many sales and transfers as possible. That is what Ohioans for Gun Safety seeks, and what the legislature long ago should have enacted.