Gun control group to circulate petitions at polling places Tuesday

Ohioans for Gun Safety is deploying more than 100 volunteers on Tuesday to polling places across Ohio in an effort to boost its campaign to put a universal gun background check issue on the statewide ballot.

“We’ll take anyone who’ll go out there and take time out of their day to do this,” said campaign spokesman Dennis Willard.

He added that he expects more volunteers to sign up to help in the days leading up to Election Day. There are more than 3,700 polling places in Ohio.

The group needs to collect 133,000 valid voter signatures to present the citizen-initiated statute to the Ohio General Assembly, which can ignore it, amend and adopt it or adopt it as-is. If lawmakers ignore or change it, the campaign can then collect another 133,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Collecting that many signatures with an all-volunteer crew is nearly impossible. Willard declined to disclose how many signatures have been gathered since the campaign launched in June.

Related: Ohioans may vote on gun background checks

Willard said the campaign plans to eventually hire paid petition circulators and it is in talks with national gun control groups about possible funding. The effort is endorsed by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and has enlisted volunteers from Moms Demand Action, a gun control advocacy group.

Polls in Ohio and across the nation show more than nine out of 10 Americans favor universal background checks for gun purchases. Currently, background checks are required for purchases made through federally licensed firearms dealers.

After the Oregon District mass shooting on Aug. 4, Gov. Mike DeWine said “I’m asking the General Assembly to pass a law that requires background checks for all firearms sales in the state of Ohio, with the exception of gifts between family members and certain other limited uses.”

Three months later, the Republican governor called for a system to let people voluntarily run a background check before they sell firearms to someone in a private party deal. He also wants to mandate more timely, complete information be sent to existing background databases so that people who cannot lawfully buy a gun aren’t able to clear a background check.

Related: Gov. DeWine outlines plan to tackle gun violence

His proposals, which are pending in the Ohio Senate, have gotten a lukewarm reception from some legislative leaders and forceful opposition from gun rights groups such as Ohio Gun Owners.

Related: Ohio lawmakers want 'Stand Your Ground' law

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