FILE - Ohio gun range 6-22-2019

A firearms instructor watches a trainee in a shooting lane during a requalification class June 22, 2019, in Springfield, Ohio.

A grassroots group pushing expanded background checks on gun purchases in Ohio has submitted a new petition to the attorney general’s office, the first step in moving toward a potential statewide ballot referendum.

Ohioans for Gun Safety wants federally licensed firearms dealers to conduct sales and transfers of firearms. Their proposal would also require a federally licensed dealer to perform background checks on sales or transfers of firearms between anyone who is not licensed federally.

The group is pushing the change under a so-called initiated statute, a multi-step process that first requires a written petition signed by at least 1,000 registered Ohio voters along with the text of the proposed law. The group began the process this week when it filed a petition along with 1,739 signatures.

“The people of Ohio want background checks for gun safety to reduce violence and save lives,” quoted Dennis Willard, a group spokesman, as saying in a statement. “For this reason it was relatively easy to collect the additional signatures to put this language in front of the Ohio Attorney General.”

The proposal includes several exemptions, including guns given as a gift between family members, the sale and transfer of antique firearms and temporary transfers for hunting, safety classes or use at a shooting range or competition.

Ohioans for Gun Safety submitted a similar petition last month. Attorney General Dave Yost denied the initial request, saying the proposed language did not accurately reflect the sales or transfers which the proposed statute would apply and that it failed to exceptions that would apply to the proposed law.

“The attorney general’s role is to determine whether the petition summary is a fair and truthful representation of the proposed law,” Dominic Binkley, public information officer for Yost, said in an email. “Our office does not offer an opinion on the subject matter of the proposal.”

If the petition succeeds, the Ohio General Assembly would have a chance to act on the proposal. If lawmakers do not take action, it could go to voters to decide.

Yost must respond to the new petition by July 19. A spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the initiative.

The proposal garnered mixed reaction on the Ohioans for Gun Safety’s Facebook page.

“Background checks do NOT work,” one user posted. “...Criminals get (their) guns through theft and illegal means, and will not be affected. It will only affect the law abiding.”

The Center Square Contributor