Proposed Ohio ballot initiative would require background checks for all gun sales

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A group is proposing a ballot initiative to require background checks for all gun sales in Ohio.

The newly formed group calling itself ‘Ohioans for Gun Safety’ says they want ‘common sense’ background checks to stem the number of gun deaths.

Statistics show nearly 12,000 people nationally are murdered each year in gun violence and 18,000 others shoot themselves to death. In 2016, Cleveland had its highest number of murders in a decade with 136. That is where Kevin James said his son was murdered.

Kevin and Kenny James

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. The pain, the trauma, no one can understand that,” James said about his then 23-year-old son Kenny.

Now James said he is backing the group to strengthen background checks on firearm buyers.

“It is too easy to get a gun, we need to get these guns away from people who are intent on doing harm,” James said.

The group kicked off a ballot initiative campaign on background checks for all gun sales, including private sellers.

Gerard Valentino with the Buckeye Firearms Association said there have been plenty of studies on background checks for gun sales. He says this is a red herring by a group aimed at restricting gun ownership.

“The Justice Department has done a study that shows well under one percent of guns used in crimes came from a private sale,” Valentino said.

He said most guns used in crimes were stolen.

“It is generally not a criminal who goes into a store and buys a gun, they get them elsewhere,” said Valentino. He asked why the group notified the media instead of pro-gun groups about starting a conversation on background checks.

A local pediatric trauma surgeon with 25 years of experience has his own theory about how guns get into criminals hands.

“The kids I’m taking care of have been shot in situations involving felons or criminal networks, basically gang violence and many of those guns flow in that direction because of sales done without background checks,” said Dr.  Jonathan Groner.

The group said they were formed over the last year after hosting 50 house parties and collecting $31,000 in donations. Spokesman David Eggert said they have not decided on whether to pass a statute or an amendment with the ballot initiative, whichever they think may be appropriate.

Both sides said they are willing to discuss ways to stem gun violence, but have very different thoughts about what can and cannot be changed.

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