SALEM — A new firearms law that could have far-reaching impacts on law-abiding gun owners is making its way to a vote on the floor of the Oregon State Senate, where local politicians are caught in the crossfire over SB 978.
The measure has drawn protests from gun owners who gathered, 2,000-strong on the Capitol steps earlier this month to protest elements of the bill. The sweeping proposal passed a judiciary committee hearing April 9 on a 4-3 party-line vote, with Republicans voting ‘nay.’
Sponsors of the bill, including Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, claim the law would curb gun violence with provisions that include: requiring safe gun storage and placing liability on gun owners for weapons that are stolen and used in crimes; outlawing guns that are untraceable (serial numbers were required in 1968); granting local authorities the power to regulate firearm access in public buildings; allowing retailers to set a higher minimum age for purchases; and making hospitals provide firearm injury data to the state.
Opponents of the bill argue it would do little to stop villains while turning peaceable gun owners and sportsmen into criminals. Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation pointed to the provision allowing public agencies — schools, airports, cities and counties — to ban lawfully concealed weapons from their buildings and “adjacent properties,” where they are currently allowed.
“It’s so broad that every time you get in our car and go on a hunting trip and drive by a public building you risk five years in prison,” he said. “If you pick up your kids at school or drop somebody off at the airport, it’s a felony.”
Another aspect of the legislation that galls gun owners is the requirement for “safe storage” of self-defense weapons, with conditions that hold the owner liable for crimes committed with the stolen guns.
“Under this bill you can be prosecuted even if you did lock up your guns with a cable lock if someone has ‘access’ to a device to defeat the lock,” commented Starrett. “So you break into my house, steal my gun and as the owner I’m responsible if you go out and murder somebody. Why don’t they increase the penalty for theft of a firearm?”
With minority Republicans closing ranks against the bill, Starrett is hopeful that a few rural Democrats will yield to constituent pressure and vote against the measure. He encourages people to contact Roblan at 503-986-1705 or [email protected] to voice their opinion on the matter.
Roblan was “pro-gun” as a member of the house, but called for “smart legislation” in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., including mandatory firearms training and banning military-style weapons. Roblan declined comment for this article, saying through a spokesman he was too busy and had not studied the bill’s language.
If the bill passes the Senate, it would go to the Oregon House where Rep. David Gomberg, D-Lincoln City, has defied the party line on such matters as rent control but has been receptive to past gun-control measures.
“I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I am also a supporter of common-sense gun laws,” remarked Gomberg, who said he was worried about “unsecured weapons” being available to children. “That means I don’t want to see firearms in the hands of criminals, the mentally ill or domestic abusers. I’m waiting to see how the bill evolves in the Senate.”