Oregon gun-control bill gets second life

SALEM, Ore. -- Gun-control legislation debated Monday morning had a new bill to call home by the afternoon.

Provisions of Senate Bill 868 are set to have a work session Tuesday morning as Senate Bill 719.

The move is a bit of a "gut and stuff," as the original words of SB 719 — a fairly innocuous measure to study how to make courts more effective — are yanked in an amendment to make room for SB 868's moves.

Oregon lawmakers are up against a Tuesday deadline to vote their bills out of committees and into House and Senate chambers.

A main thrust of SB 868 was to stem a high number of suicides.

SB 868 would create a means to get "extreme risk protection orders" that would ostensibly stop some people from possessing firearms when they pose a risk to themselves or those around them.

Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, who cosponsored the bill with Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said Oregon is one of the top states for military and veteran suicides.

Between 2010 and 2014, nearly 1,900 of the 2,280 firearm deaths in Oregon were suicides, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

"What we're trying to do is provide the best course of action that would give families a chance to help themselves prevent their veterans and their other family members from killing themselves, prevent suicide-by-cop, and worse, killing family members in desperation," Boquist told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under the bill, courts would take into account criminal history, suicide attempts, and whether the people in question have acted violently toward others in issuing such orders.

The bill would set punishment for violating an extreme risk protection order at either a $6,250 fine and/or a maximum of a year in prison.

Boquist argued the bill had been "whittled down," citing arguments that someone's "evil" ex-wife or ex-mother-in-law would drag them into court.

Under proposed amendments, law enforcement officials and immediate family or household members can file a petition for the order.

"Now, if you happen to be living with your ex-wife, you have your own problems," he said.

The National Rifle Association opposed its passage.

"This bill allows for a protective order to remove your Second Amendment rights — not because of a criminal conviction or a mental health adjudication, but based on third-party allegations using an evidentiary standard that falls far below what's normally required for the removing of fundamental rights," said Keely Hopkins, an NRA state liaison.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee heard about two hours of testimony Monday morning on gun-control bills such as SB 868.

Gov. Kate Brown, during her testimony for the bills, invoked the Umpqua Community College shooting where a lone gunman killed nine people in Roseburg on Oct. 1, 2015.

"I will never forget that day," Brown said. "I vowed I would do whatever I could to make sure it never happens again."

Even though incidents like the UCC and Clackamas Town Center shootings are remembered, "all too commonly, gun violence is also perpetrated behind closed doors," Brown said.

An average of 456 people died from gun-related injuries per year from 2010 to 2014, according to the Health Authority — 282  murders; 54 were classified as "legal intervention;" and 25 were accidental shootings.

Senate Bill 797, which also had a hearing Monday morning, would prohibit gun dealers and others from transferring guns if the Oregon State Police can't determine whether the person taking the gun is qualified to do so. The Senate Judiciary Committee sponsored the bill, though its fate is unclear.

The Tuesday deadline doesn't affect joint committees such as Ways & Means.

In the lead-up to the hearings Monday, some opponents of the bill appear to have copied and pasted a sample letter from gun-rights group Oregon Firearms Federation in their written testimony to lawmakers.

"It makes no sense to delay, indefinitely, a transfer to a qualified buyer simply because (Oregon State Police) cannot correctly do their job," part of the letter says. "This is especially true in cases where the firearms dealer knows the buyer personally and knows he or she is qualified."

Many people arrived before the hearing started dressed in red T-shirts that read "Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America," representing a gun-reform advocacy group.

Send questions, comments or news tips to jbach@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6714. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMBach.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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