COLUMBUS, Ohio — Business owner and former statehouse reporter Dennis Willard is putting his efforts and passion behind Ohioans for Gun Safety.

  • A gun safety group is pushing to require background checks on all gun sales in Ohio
  • Ohioans For Gun Safety filed a ballot initiative to close what they say are loopholes in background check laws
  • Opponents say it’s just the latest attempt to penalize law-abiding citizens

The group is calling for the sale and transfer of a gun to take place at a federally licensed firearm dealer, which would require the buyer to complete a federal background check. 

“We're thinking that if we can improve the law, and have more background checks conducted, and possibly keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, then we could reduce violence and save lives,” said Willard. 

11 states and Washington, D.C. require universal background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms purchased from a licensed dealer or unlicensed seller.

Eric Delbert is a law enforcement officer and owner of L.E.P.D. Firearms, a shooting range in Columbus. He’s against the proposal and says it would be next to impossible to track all private sales. 

“They have good intent, but the method of getting there is where we differ,” said Delbert. “A universal background check has a lot of things that go with it that we know, just from being in the business will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and that's what they ultimately want to do.”

Dean Rieck, with Buckeye Firearms Association, says serious gun crime is rarely caused by people who have passed a background check, and come instead from theft and the black market. 

“People that we're worried about, truly violent criminals, they never go through background checks. So, this is yet another law that's going to target law-abiding gun owners who will go through the background checks,” said Rieck. “I think it’s sort of disingenuous for a group like this that really originates outside the state, to come in, pretend like they're grassroots, and try to get involved with Ohio law.”

“We're not saying this is any kind of cure all. What we are saying is a very pragmatic, common sense, first step forward,” said Willard. 

Willard says exceptions would be made if a gun is given or sold to a family member.

Ohioans for Gun Safety must now get nearly 133,000 signatures and pass the petition along to the state legislature by January.

However, if lawmakers don't act on the measure, the group would need an additional 133,000 signatures to put the issue before voters.

Ohioans For Gun Safety say they're hoping to get the measure on the ballot either in 2020 or 2021.