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Ohio House unlikely to close gun show loophole, Speaker says

Jake Zuckerman, Ohio Capital Journal

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The Speaker of the Ohio House said Thursday not to expect removal of a legal loophole that allows Ohioans to purchase guns without undergoing a criminal background check.

Addressing reporters Thursday, Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said there’s no GOP support for a proposal from Democrats to close what’s known as the “gun show loophole” and require universal background checks for firearm purchases.

“I don’t see the House taking that issue up,” he said.

Under federal law, all federally licensed gun sellers must run buyers through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before selling firearms.

However, private sellers need not check anyone’s criminal history before selling them a gun. In a 1999 report, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated private sellers comprise about one in four vendors at the more than 4,000 gun shows nationally.

“Many nonlicensees entice potential customers to their tables with comments such as: ‘No background checks required; we need only to know where you live and how old you are,’” the ATF found.

A 2017 sampling of more than 1,600 gun owners, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 22% of gun owners who reported obtaining their most recent firearm within the last two years did so without undergoing a criminal background check. (The research was funded in part by Fund for a Safer Future, which advocates for stricter gun laws.)

Other peer-reviewed studies have linked policies that regulate private gun sales with lower rates of firearms exported from the state.

During the press conference, Cupp noted that federally licensed sellers who rent booths at gun shows are required to conduct background checks.

“I don’t see any consensus in our caucus to have further restrictions on that,” he said. “And actually, I think, once you get into it, there’s a lot of complications with doing that, and who you’re going to exempt from. It’s not just a clean thing, like everybody or nobody.”

The gun lobby has fought efforts over the years to close the loophole — the NRA even denies the existence of any gun show loophole. A Buckeye Firearms Association spokesman could not be reached for comment.

As part of a broader gun law package, House Democrats earlier this week highlighted legislation backed by the full caucus that would require background checks for all gun purchases in Ohio.

The measures — including a “red flag” law, which would allow family members to petition a judge to allow temporary seizure of weapons from people experiencing a mental health crisis — are unpopular with elected Republicans.

Ohio’s gerrymandered district lines render most seats uncompetitive in a general election, putting the emphasis on primaries, where Republicans believe they would be vulnerable to attacks from the right if they supported legislation that could be tarred as anti-Second Amendment.

Democrats are betting their gun law provisions are popular with the general public, if not elected Republican officeholders.

Gallup polling from 2017, days after a mass shooting in Las Vegas left 58 dead, found a whopping 96% of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun purchases. Other polling last month from Morning Consult and Politico found 84% of voters, including 77% of all Republicans, support requiring all gun purchases to go through a background check.

Thirteen states and Washington D.C. require background checks at the point of sale for all guns, whether purchased from a licensed or unlicensed seller, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. A total of 22 require some form of a background check beyond the minimum set by federal law.


This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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