Gun reform backers advance proposal

Jim Provance The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (TNS)

COLUMBUS — Advocates for closing what they characterize as “loopholes” in Ohio’s background checks for private gun sales moved a step closer on Friday to hitting the street with petitions to put a proposed law before legislators.and potentially on the ballot.

Attorney General Dave Yost certified that summary language that would be shown to would-be petition signers is a “fair and truthful statement” of what the bill would do.

“This letter does not offer an opinion of the enforceability or constitutionality of the same,” Mr. Yost wrote in certifying the language.He had rejected a prior version of the summary last month.

Dennis Willard, spokesman for the group calling itself Ohioans for Gun Safety, said the revisions to the language to win the attorney general’s approval did not substantively change the proposal.

The Ohio Ballot Board will meet Monday to determine whether the initiated statute sought by a group calling itself Ohioans for Gun Safety amounts to a single or multiple laws. Mr. Willard said he is confident this proposal satisfies the single-subject rule.

“Studies have shown that background checks save lives and reduce gun violence,” he said. “We want Ohio to be a safer place for our children and grandchildren to live, and closing loopholes in Ohio’s current background check law is the first step towards that goal.”

The Ohio Ballot Board must still determine whether the initiated statute sought by a group calling itself Ohioans for Gun Safety amounts to a single or multiple laws.

The group must gather at least 132,887 valid signatures of registered voters by year’s end to put a bill on lawmakers’ desks when they return to Columbus at the start of 2020.

The bill would require a federally licensed firearms dealer to be involved in all sales of a gun, even direct person-to-person and gun show sales — that do not involve relatives, antiques, or hunting firearms. That would guarantee compliance with federal background check requirements.

Violations would range from a fourth-degree misdemeanor for a first offense, carrying up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, to a fifth-degree felony for third or subsequent offenses, carrying up to 12 years and a $2,250 fine.

It is narrowly tailored to the background check issue and does not address other proposed gun reforms, such as a red flag law through which guns could be legally taken from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Lawmakers would have four months to act on the bill to the petitioners’ satisfaction. If not, the group could gather another 132,887 signatures to put the question directly to voters in November 2020.

The attorney general rejected a previous version of the summary, sending the group back to the street to gather another 10,000 signatures to put a revised version before him.

Unlike a constitutional amendment, an initiated statute, even after approval by voters, can be subsequently amended or even repealed by lawmakers like any other law. It’s the same process used in 2007 to enact Ohio’s ban on indoor public smoking that has largely remained intact in the decade since.

Jim Provance The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (TNS)

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