Ohioans for Gun Safety calls for background checks

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, July 2018)  Retired school teacher Dave Eggert and Clinical Psychologist Dr Terry Tobias were both drawn to work for greater gun safety as a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where 20 children, ages six and seven, as well as six adults, were killed by a single shooter.

“As a former teacher, I had to do something,” said Eggert referencing  Sandy Hook.

Eggert, a Cleveland Heights resident, who is married to an ordained minister, urged people to put “God before guns.” He said he believes “too many Americans are putting Second Amendment rights before the First and Second Commandments.”

Dr Terry Tobias said, “Sandy Hook hit me hard. It was heartbreaking. As a civilized society, we should be able to do more to prevent gun violence.”

Eggert and Tobias came to St. Malachi Parish Hall on June 10 to speak to about 30 people regarding their efforts to place an issue on the Ohio ballot that would require what they termed “common sense background checks” for gun purchasers. Eggert says after researching the issue of background checks, Ohioans for Gun Safety determined “common sense background checks were something practical that we could achieve.”

Under the Brady Bill passed in 1994, Eggert says individuals in the United States purchasing a gun through a licensed gun dealer are required to have a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

However, there are loopholes in the background checking system currently in place in the State of Ohio. The biggest, says Eggert is that it doesn’t cover all gun sales. Private gun sales between unlicensed sellers don’t require a background check. Persons prohibited from buying a gun from a dealer, such as felons, fugitives and those with a domestic violence misdemeanor on their record, can purchase a firearm in a private gun sale.

Support is high, says Eggert, for closing the background check loopholes. He cites statistics saying 77 percent of gun owners support such measures as do 87 percent of non-gun owners, 70 percent of Republicans, and 88 percent  of Democrats.

Twenty-one states have already closed the background check loophole says, Eggert. He says states have taken action because of substantial evidence that more background checks result in fewer deaths of women from domestic violence, reduced gun trafficking and fewer aggravated assaults.

While other states have strengthened their background check laws, Ohio is moving in the opposite direction. Bills that have passed in Ohio in recent years are relaxing gun laws, not reinforcing them, said Dr Tobias. As a result, she said Ohioans for Gun Safety has little confidence that the State of Ohio Legislature would act to close loopholes in the background checking system. So, she said, the group plans to take their proposal directly to voters in 2019 or 2020.

To place the proposal on the ballot, Dr Tobias said the Ohioans for Gun Safety would need to gather close to 200,000 signatures.

Eggert says to get that effort underway, Ohioans for Gun Safety is looking for people or organizations that are willing to be groundbreakers and host events so they can present their idea to voters and listen to their feedback.

Dr Tobias says this initial stage will be a listening campaign and participants will be surveyed to help create clearly written ballot language for the proposal and to decide whether to pursue a new state law or an amendment to the state constitution.

Eggert encouraged those that want to get involved by providing financial help, hosting a house party or informational event, or by pledging their support for common-sense background checks to visit the Ohioans for Gun Safety website at http://www.ohioansforgunsafety.com.

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