Three bills relating to gun control are currently being reviewed by Oregon legislature. The measures were created to improve background checks for gun buyers, increase requirements for people looking to carry concealed weapons, fix crucial loopholes to protect partners from domestic violence, and ensure that guns are taken out of the hands of those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
At a Senate committee meeting on April 15, both Democrat and Republican sponsors of the bills presented arguments as to why these changes are necessary for Oregon.
Senate Bill 764 creates requirements for people seeking a concealed carry license. The bill was first read in early February, and referred to the President’s desk and Judiciary soon after. One part of the bill would compel anyone who wishes to carry a concealed weapon to take a live fire-training course with a certified instructor to show that they are skilled enough to handle a gun themselves.
Another part of the bill would require the Department of State Police to monitor progress of concealed handgun license requests and report the reasons for denials to interim committees of the Legislative Assembly, evidently in order to improve foundation for future gun laws.
Until now, the requirement to carry concealed arms has consisted of passing only a written test, which is taken at the end of an online training course.
A second measure, Senate Bill 797, if passed would prohibit the transfer of guns by a seller— public or private— if the State Police Department is unable to determine after 3 days whether or not the buyer is qualified to receive a gun. According to the Oregon Legislative Information System, the measure would also ensure that when the Department determines a gun buyer hasn’t passed his or her background check, the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon and all other local law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction, including probation officers, would be notified within 24 hours. The gun sale would be delayed indefinitely.
SB 797 also includes a section which would close the so-called “Boyfriend Loophole” present in the current law. Right now, people served a restraining order by partners they’ve lived with are not supposed to own weapons. The new measure will prohibit anyone with a standing restraining order filed by their boyfriend or girlfriend from owning firearms, whether or not they have in fact lived together.
SB 797 was introduced to the Senate, read, and referred to the President’s desk as well as the Judiciary in mid-February. A public hearing was held for the measure on April 17.
The third gun bill reviewed by Legislature in mid-April started out as Senate Bill 868, but has since been renamed as SB 719. The measure would allow Oregonians with a family member, spouse, partner or roommate whom they believe is dangerous to themselves or others to petition to obtain an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) from the courts to force that person to turn over their weapons. At-risk behavior covered in the bill’s fine print includes present or past suicide threats, domestic abuse, violent misdemeanors, DUI’s, drug abuse, and cruelty to animals.
The bill was co-sponsored by Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) and Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and passed by the Oregon Senate on May 1st with a 17-11 vote before heading to the House of Representatives for its first reading.
SB 719 has attracted much controversy, most of which is related to the way that the law could strip the accused of their Second Amendment right to bear arms. In the wording of the measure, “These orders may be issued without any allegations of criminal behavior,” said the NRA Institute for Legislative Action in early May. NRA representatives also contend that people who aren’t mental health professionals shouldn’t be allowed to petition any court to take away another person’s weapons, since they have no real way to judge whether someone is at risk of harming themselves or others.
An additional opposing party argued that the measure could in fact increase the instance of suicide, in that it would prevent people who want to keep their guns from feeling comfortable enough to share mental health issues with professionals out of fear of losing their weapons.
Despite the bill’s apparent threat to constitutional rights, even Republican Senator Boquist was reported to have argued for SB 719 on the grounds that he didn’t want any more veterans— or kids— to commit suicide.
Governor Kate Brown believes that, however risky these bills could be to our constitutional rights, they are necessary in the current epidemic of violence to prevent events like school shootings, domestic violence and suicide. Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, who testified in the Senate on April 15, referenced a recent shooting in Gresham by a father who shot and killed himself after killing his two daughters.
The bill needs to clear the House, and then the Governor’s office, to be turned into a law.
By Kiki Genoa