COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The state’s single-issue special August election is just around the corner, and campaigns are spending this final weekend talking with voters about Issue 1 and what is at stake.
More than half a million Ohioans have already voted on Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would raise thresholds for citizens to enact future amendments to Ohio’s constitution. And hundreds of thousands more will vote on Aug. 8.
If it passes, Issue 1 would require a 60% vote to pass future amendments to Ohio’s constitution, instead of the simple majority required under current law. It would also require petitioners to collect signatures from all 88 Ohio counties to bring a proposed amendment to a vote in the first place, instead of 44 counties.
“There’s a lot of things that it could be about, but certainly guns would be one of them,” Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said.
The pro-Issue 1 campaign is telling voters that if the threshold to amend Ohio’s constitution is not increased, they could lose some rights — particularly gun rights. The campaign has sent out fliers and mailers pressing the issue, including one that says, “What guns we can (or cannot) own” is on the line.
“If there’s anything you could be worried about, it is losing that right, there’s nothing really that could be done further give you that right, you already have it,” Ferguson said.
During NBC4’s Issue 1 debate, moderators asked Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) if Ohioans should be worried about their Second Amendment rights if Issue 1 fails.
“I’m not going to stand here and make assurances for issues that I’m not aware may or may not come forward,” Russo said during the debate. “I also can’t say if something pro-Second Amendment will be put on the ballot, as they have the right to do and should do.”
Statehouse reporter Natalie Fahmy asked other lawmakers, like Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), whether they could see a question about guns on future ballots.
“Yes,” Weinstein said. “I believe there is a wide, bipartisan majority of Ohioans who would support some basic common sense gun reforms that would keep Ohioans safe.”
Both Ferguson and Weinstein pointed out that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arm, and that cannot be taken away by states. But they disagreed when it came to things like permit-less carry and whether Ohioans should reconsider the state’s gun laws.
“Democrats want you to ask your government for permission, and as Republicans, we believe you have those rights, inherently, so long as you don’t lose them,” Ferguson said.
Weinstein said if there is a gun question on a future ballot, it would likely involve enacting enhanced background checks, requiring a permit to carry firearms, temporarily removing weapons from domestic abusers, or a limit on the types of guns in Ohioans hands, like military-grade automatic rifles.
“Unfortunately, what we are talking about are incremental tiny, tiny steps,” he said. “To get to the ballot, you’d be looking at very reasonable common-sense steps that have bipartisan support to give it a chance to be passed into law.”
Ferguson said if a proposal limiting Ohioans’ access to guns ends up on ballots in the future, it would be due to influence from out-of-state special interest groups, echoing Issue 1 supporters’ arguments that stricter requirements are needed to protect Ohio’s constitution.
“The special interest groups from other states that are trying to hijack the Ohio constitution, they’re out there profiteering and just trying to make money off of whatever the issue of the day is,” Ferguson said. “And if guns is the issue of the day, they’re going to try and raise money through that.”