State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon), with joint sponsor Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus), yesterday introduced House Bill (HB) 317, titled the “Protect Law Enforcement Act,” or PLEA—legislation that would require all firearms transactions to be processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), closing the current loopholes in law that allow many guns sales to occur without a background check.
“To reduce violent crime and deter self-harm, we need to keep guns out of the hands of minors, felons, criminals and domestic abusers. Closing the loophole in the background check process will help end easy access to guns by those who should not have guns and anyone who would sell them firearms,” said Rep. Robinson. “This approach not only makes everyday Ohioans safer, but it aides and protects our local law enforcement. For each person that poses a danger with a gun that doesn’t have one after failing a background check, that’s one less crime scene where an officer or civilians could lose their lives. Police officers deserve to feel safe and secure on the job so they can do their jobs and keep our communities safe.”
Current federal law already requires licensed dealers to perform a background check at the time of purchase. PLEA would hold unlicensed gun sellers in the state of Ohio to the same standards as federally licensed dealers and would make Ohio a point of transfer state, meaning that a background check would be required at the time the transaction is conducted. Private sellers would complete transfers at either a federally licensed dealer or with their local law enforcement who already conduct background checks.
This requirement would not inconvenience unlicensed sellers or buyers. Federal firearms listings indicate that every Ohioan lives within 10 miles of a gun dealer, with 2,284 unique gun dealers in the state.
NICS data indicates that since 1998, more than 81,000 sales to prohibited purchasers in Ohio were denied, including more than 37,000 illegal sales to convicted felons, over 16,000 illegal sales to prohibited domestic abusers, and more than 8,300 illegal sales to prohibited purchasers due to unlawful drug use. With that many denials through licensed dealers, it is possible that the number of sales denied to buyers from unlicensed sellers at gun shows, online sales and other private sales would be just as high or higher if they had to perform background checks.
Easy access is given to firearms at online gun markets like Armlist.com, where a massive number of unchecked gun sales are taking place between strangers, potential criminals and other prohibited purchasers. In 2018, there were more than 127,000 Ohio ads on Armslist.com for firearm sales that would not require a background check. Ohio had the highest number of total ads that did not require a background check across the country. Research into those looking to purchase firearms on Armslist.com revealed that 1 in 12 would-be buyers in Ohio would have failed a background check, a rate 5.5 times higher than those who fail background checks at licensed dealers or in other contexts where background checks are required.
“The vast majority of Ohioans support expanding background checks. This is not just what will help keep us safe, but it is what the people want,” added Rep. Robinson. “PLEA is a plea to support law enforcement’s efforts to keep dangerous weapons out of dangerous hands. It is a plea to help keep children, students and families safe. It is a plea for the commonsense gun safety reform that Ohioans want.”
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) data from 2013 to 2017 indicates that every year, more than 1,400 Ohioans are killed with guns and thousands more are shot and injured. More than 90 percent of Ohioans support universal background checks for gun purchases and 87 percent of Ohio gun owners support background checks.