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Gun law proposal a slap in the face to law-abiding Oregonians


January 16, 2019

Remember those election results from last November?

Well they are coming home to roost in rural Oregon in this 2019 legislative session.

For those who didn’t do the math, although only seven (of 36) populous, mostly metropolitan counties (centered along the western edge of the Columbia River and the mid-Willamette Valley and coast) voted blue on Nov. 6, Democrats got what they wanted on all statewide ballot measures and they secured a three-fifths supermajority in both legislative chambers, as well as re-electing Gov. Kate Brown.

What that means is that if they all vote along party lines, they can steamroll the opposition. All the pieces are there. They’re in the driver’s seat in this legislative term, which started Monday, Jan. 14.

Rural residents have become used to finding ourselves in the proverbial back seat in state government, most notably on issues such as land use, wildlife and natural resources management, and infrastructure needs.

This lack of attention may be understandable, given the distribution of population and geography noted above, but that doesn’t make it right.

If the powers that be demonstrate genuine interest in actually understanding and serving the needs of the people who reside in the more than 90 percent of the state (geographically) who didn’t vote blue in November, and who (geographically) comprise more than half its population, we won’t be having this conversation.

It is notable that Gov. Kate Brown last month introduced a proposed budget that included more than $247 million for infrastructure and other increased spending that would benefit rural residents. We’ll see what happens with that.

But things aren’t off to a good start on one front: guns.

Among the 1,467 bills filed in advance of this year’s legislative session is one that should get the attention of every individual who owns a firearm in Oregon – no matter what their party affiliation.

Introduced by state Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Tigard, and Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, Senate Bill 501 would require a permit from the county Sheriff to purchase a firearm, would severely limit ammunition purchases and would essentially outlaw just about every handgun in Oregon.

The proposed law would subject the purchase of a firearm to a 30-day delay for the Sheriff’s Office to issue a permit, and a required 14-day waiting period after a required criminal background check is requested by a gun dealer, before firearm ownership can be transferred. So it could take up to 45 days just to qualify to buy a gun.

The law would require that the loss of a firearm be reported within 24 hours to law enforcement.

It would limit purchase of ammunition to 20 rounds every 30 days.

It also would make any firearm that carries more than five rounds illegal. That means Grandpa’s old six-shot revolver, which he bequeathed to you when you were 17, might be illegal soon, not to mention just about any semiautomatic pistol on the market today.

It also would impose stiff penalties for failure to keep firearms locked.

Failure to comply with most of these requirements would result in up to a year in jail and as much as $6,250 in fines – or both.

The legislature has already approved gun-control legislation in recent years. One law, passed in 2015, requires that private-party sales of all firearms, not just handguns, be conducted through a licensed firearm dealer, including a federal background check and other requirements.

A 2017 law, narrowly passed by the legislature, enables police, family member or roommate of a person who appears to a threat to themselves or others to ask a judge for a one-year order that would prohibit the person in question from possessing a deadly weapon.

Supporters of firearm ownership restrictions often characterize “the gun crowd” of being paranoid and over-reacting to “reasonable” legislation that “ensures the safety of the public” by limiting purchase of firearms to those who can pass background checks, requiring waiting periods, limiting sales of firearms or ammunition to adults or those over 21, etc.

This bill is an example of why gun owners and enthusiasts are resistant – because they fear the snowball will never stop growing or rolling.

Many gun owners aren’t necessarily against criminal background checks and other measures, but this bill, written by people who appear to know little about guns and their legitimate uses, particularly in rural communities and for hunting, way overshoots that mark.

It’s really a slap in the face to rural culture.

What’s particularly frightening is the possibility that this is only the beginning of further inroads on rural citizens’ ways of life.

The Oregon Constitution is pretty clear in what it says about citizens’ right to bear arms: “The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves, and the State, but the Military shall be kept in strict subordination to the civil power.” But if courts don’t uphold the constitution, that’s a problem – for all.

George Orwell, author of “1984,” the dark tale of authoritarian “thought police” representing control by “the Party,” once said: “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

That may sound like a lot of wordy political theory until we look at this proposed law. Sure, the writers are probably shooting for the moon, but it’s a scary picture.

Rural Oregonians who don’t want their culture and their values dictated in this, use of land, water and natural resources, education and many other areas of life, need to start talking – in the halls of government in Salem, to the people who elected these legislators, and as a last resort, in court – all the way to the top.

And if legislators in Salem want to build bridges with rural residents, sending this bill to a quiet death is a good place to start.


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