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Group mounts effort to expand background checks for gun purchases

By Tom Jackson • Jun 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM

A group called Ohioans for Gun Safety announced Monday it’s mounting an effort to tighten background checks for gun purchases in Ohio.

The group says it backs a new state law requiring nearly all gun sales to go through federally licensed gun dealers. Licensed dealers are required to check potential buyers for a criminal record, but many guns are sold through private sales by people who aren’t licensed gun dealers.

Under the group’s proposal, anyone who sells, buys, transfers or receives a firearm without going through a federally licensd gun dealer and conducting a background check would be guilty of a crime.

The group’s proposal does allow for certain exceptions. Background checks would not be required, for example, for transfers between family members or transfers of antiques.

“This is an issue that consistently polls with the vast majority in support. Background checks are quick and easy, and that’s why Ohioans support them,” said Dennis Willard, a spokesman for the group.

If the Ohio General Assembly won’t approve such a law, Ohioans for Gun Safety would like to put a ballot issue before state voters as early as November 2020 and no later than November 2021, Willard said.

“We have a lot of volunteers from around the state, and we're trying to grow our grassroots coalition,” Willard said.

“Background checks are the first step toward a future with less gun violence. As we move forward, we will begin collecting signatures and gathering more support from Ohioans to make sure this important issue is passed,” Willard said.

According to the Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio group that supports gun rights, since November 1993, any commercial purchase of a gun in the U.S. requires a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check to be done by a federally licensed gun dealer.

Gun buyers must fill out a form providing information about themselves. Records must be stored for 20 years and are subject to inspection by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, according to a 2016 article on background checks written by Keith Coniglio and posted at the Buckeye Firearms Association website.

Coniglio’s piece argues that background checks, and the records they create, are essentially a form of gun registration and can wind up being used to confiscate guns from law-abiding owners who have never committed a crime.

Gun registration records in New York City were used to confiscate semiautomatic rifles, so-called “assault weapons,” from more than 2,000 people, Coniglio’s piece states.

“A Staten Island man who announced his refusal to comply was the subject of a police raid. He was arrested, and his guns were seized,” the article states.

Many people who have committed mass murders in recent years were able to pass background checks, including Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech murderer who killed 32 people, and James Holmes, who killed a dozen people in a movie theater in 2012, the article says.

According to news accounts, Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in 2017 during a music festival in Las Vegas, also passed criminal background checks.

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