Gun Control in Oregon: There Really Isn’t Much

In Oregon, there are few laws or licenses that might be considered “gun control.” No permits are required to purchase guns, no registration is needed, and owners are not required to be licensed under normal circumstances. Openly carrying a gun is also allowed in the majority of the state.

Diana Simpson, Benton County Sheriff, said that there aren’t any laws that limit guns in Oregon, except some related to hunting such as shell limits on shotguns. She said that there are some weapons that people are prohibited from possessing, like switch blades and throwing stars, but that most of the limitations placed on guns are governed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Certain kinds of weapons, like machine guns or silencers, are restricted. The average person can’t legally own or possess them without applying to the ATF.

The gun control policy reform President Barack Obama introduced this month would increase weapon restrictions to include an assault weapons ban. It would also require criminal background checks for all gun purchases. If these policies are adopted, they will affect new gun purchases in Oregon.

“It would certainly be an increase in criminal history check and background for individuals purchasing firearms,” Simpson said, “which is good.”

Unlike Oregon sheriffs in Linn, Douglas, Grant, and Cook counties that have sent letters to Vice President Joe Biden saying they won’t enforce new gun laws, Simpson is for the changes.

“I support the 23 directives that the president has come up with,” she said. “Even if they create a significant impact on workload, if it means people are safer, I’m not going to complain.”

Although Oregon doesn’t have many gun laws, there are some. Laws prohibit certain people from owning guns and from engaging in certain activities with guns. Felons can’t own guns, and it’s illegal for anyone to point a gun at someone. If you use a gun while committing a crime, that becomes an additional crime. You also can’t carry a concealed gun in Oregon unless you have a concealed handgun license.

There are currently about 2,500 people licensed to carry concealed handguns in Benton County. Simpson said that applications for concealed handgun licenses have increased sharply in the county, and across Oregon, since the first of January. A license is supposed to take no more than 45 days to process, by state statute. However, all applications for new licenses require fingerprinting that goes to the state police for identification. Because of the increase in the number of applications, the state police are backlogged and applications are taking right up to the 45 days and sometimes longer.

Not everyone can apply for a concealed handgun license—applicants in Benton County must be citizens or legal residents with intent to become citizens. They must be over 21 and cannot be convicted felons. They must demonstrate competence with a handgun by either completing a safety or training course, or providing evidence of participation in organized shooting competitions or military service. Applicants must also get two people to sign their application as character references.

Applicants cannot be subject to restraining orders for stalking, have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, be registered sex offenders, or have been found mentally ill and subject to an order prohibiting firearm purchase.

People licensed to carry a concealed handgun may not carry them everywhere, either.  Federal buildings, beyond airport security screening points, and courtrooms are off-limits.

by Lana Jones