Fail A Background Check, Face State Police Investigation in Oregon

Oregon state troopers are being dispatched to investigate attempted gun purchasers who have fail a background check. The new policy is apparently the result of state senator Ted Ferrioli asking Governor John Kitzhaber to enforce a state law that makes it a crime to attempt to purchase a gun when the purchaser knows that he or she is a prohibited person.


This is going to be interesting.

It’s a crime for convicted felons or people with certain known mental health problems to attempt to buy a gun. But until recently not much happened in Oregon if someone tried to skirt the law. That’s now changing, according to an internal state police training bulletin obtained by the gun rights group, Oregon Firearms Federation. Its director, Kevin Starrett, says he’s talked to two upstanding gun buyers who were questioned by state troopers after being inexplicably rejected by the background check computer.

“What they’re doing is a ridiculous waste of time, but they’re doing something and we’ve got to do something, and this is something so this is what we’re going to do,” said Starrett.

I think that Ferrioli did the right thing in asking that the law be enforced, and that Kitzhaber was correct in enforcing it. After all, what is the point of passing a law that isn’t going to be enforced?

As a practical matter, we’ll learn soon enough whether the law has any effect in stopping the attempts of criminals to buy arms.

When I was working for an FFL and ran background checks we rarely got outright rejections in the dozens of sales I participated in. I can recall just two immediate rejections, and they resulted in precisely nothing happening that we were aware of in the store.

We primarily got delays, most of which were later allowed to proceed. I can only recall one instance where we proceeded with a delayed sale (following the law) and the ATF came back later after the sale to confiscate the weapon.


What I suspect will happen is that the Oregon state troopers will end up investigating a number of false positives. They’ll also snap up a number of obvious criminals who are simply stupid, and they’ll arrest a number of people who didn’t realize that they were prohibited… perhaps people who had domestic violence charges from years before.

What this isn’t

This isn’t an attempt to entrap lawful purchasers, nor an infringement on anyone’s rights. This will largely be a waste of taxpayer dollars as they investigate and perhaps even bring charges against a small number of people every year who probably aren’t dangerous.


There’s also a good chance that this law will work as intended and scrape up the occasional dim-witted violent offender and put them back in prison, where they can’t hurt anyone but their fellow criminals.

I suspect that the enforcement of this law will largely be a waste of time, but it might actually get a few criminals off the street.

Time will tell.

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