Buckeye Firearms Association's Rob Sexton testifies in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 2.

Effort to require 60% for constitutional changes is essential to gun rights

Legislation in both the Ohio House and Senate that would require voters to approve any changes to the Ohio Constitution have received a lot of coverage — most of it negative — in the media these past few weeks. But like many things covered by the mainstream media, the press gets this issue wrong.

House Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 2 are essential to protect Ohio and are equally critical to the future of gun rights in our state.

The hyperbole in the media over the issue is downright shameful, with some writers even labeling the legislation a threat to democracy itself.

So what are the facts about this issue?

Ohio would join several other states with similar laws

Ohio would not be unique in making it more difficult to make changes to our foundational documents. More than half of the states don’t allow for initiative petitions to be used to change their constitutions, and no one has suggested these states are anti-democratic. Other states have more difficult signature requirements and restrictions on the use of outside firms that use paid signature gatherers. Of course, several states that require changes to their constitution receive more than a simple majority.

Buckeye Firearms Association is a strong supporter of this legislation because it is key to defending our rights to keep and bear arms in the future. The reason for our position lies in the realities of political campaigns. It’s no secret that it takes millions for politicians to win elections for high offices. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns cost tens of millions of dollars these days. But the same is also true for statewide ballot issues.

Money talks in politics, too often louder than the issues

BFA often works with the Sportsmen’s Alliance on common issues. The Sportsmen's Alliance is a national organization headquartered in Columbus, and its purpose is to protect the rights of Americans to hunt, fish, and trap. The organization was founded in 1977 to battle the growing anti-hunting movement. Over the course of its 46 years, the alliance has battled extremist animal-rights groups 29 times on the ballot in 14 states, including twice right here in Ohio.

The organization's leadership has learned a lot that should resonate with gun owners. In general terms, when it comes to ballot campaigns, the side that spends the most money wins. The side that spent the most money on these sportsmen’s issues prevailed on 28 of the 29 occasions. The conclusion is inescapable. The outcome of many issues often is more about the size of a bank account than any real debate on the issues themselves.

The relevant question for any of us to ask is how we would fare in one of these battles? Could Ohio’s 4 million gun owners match New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg dollar for dollar on a constitutional amendment banning “assault weapons”? What about universal background checks, high-capacity magazines, raising the age to purchase a firearm, requiring a state ID card for gun buyers, or any other radical issue that gun control groups have created in other states?

Could Ohio gun owners defeat a ballot issue ending firearms preemption, which forbids Ohio’s cities, townships, and counties — including those like Cincinnati and Columbus that pretend ORC 9.68 doesn't exist — from enacting hundreds of differing gun restrictions? The answer to that question is not likely, if someone of Bloomberg’s wealth were to bankroll the issue. And that is the problem.

'Constitution,' by its earliest definition, means established law or custom

The Ohio Constitution should not be sold to the highest bidder. It should not be changed to suit the political fancy of out-of-state billionaires or wealthy anti-liberty activist groups that favor gun control. The Constitution should be reserved only for the most foundational changes.

The Founding Fathers recognized this important protection in our U.S. Constitution. Changes to our national founding document may be accomplished only if two-thirds of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate agree — and three-fourths of the states. That is why the U.S. Constitution has seldom been changed, and when it has been done, it has been on issues of great importance, such as the end of slavery or granting women their long-denied right to vote.

Our country has been overrun with far-left extremists who seek to let felons walk free, allow 16-year-olds to vote, defund law enforcement, eliminate the Electoral College, and enshrine open borders into law, for example, in addition to their negative views on gun ownership. Their radical belief system is financed by the Hollywood crowd and other progressive elites with deep pockets.

Ensuring that Ohio voters really want a change to the Constitution is common sense in general and absolutely essential for those who wish to keep, carry, and buy firearms in our own defense.

That is why BFA is strongly supporting HJR1 and SJR2. This is the message we need to convey to our state legislators. And once we’re successful with that, gun owners across the state will need to get to the polls in August to enshrine this important protection into the Ohio Constitution.

Rob Sexton, legislative affairs director for Buckeye Firearms Association, is a 27-year veteran of political, legislative, and ballot issue campaigns involving hunting and the shooting sports.

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Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.