Why Are Oregon Dems Watering-Down Their Gun Control Package?

AP Photo/Paula Bronstein

It’s a seemingly odd strategy, given the fact that Democrats control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor’s mansion in the state, but nevertheless the Left is apparently preparing to weaken a pair of gun control bills that were seen as top priorities for gun control activists in the state.

Oregon Public Broadcasting was first to report on the move by Democrats to water-down and consolidate the two bills into one mushy, messy, gun control initiative.

Under an amendment taken up by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, a bill to ban guns in state buildings and allow local governments to pass their own bans would be curbed significantly.

The amended proposal to Senate Bill 554 — submitted by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, whose chamber has already approved the changes — would limit a new ban to the state Capitol, and only allow K-12 schools, community colleges and universities to enact bans. Local governments like counties and cities would not have that ability.

The new proposal would also ensure that anyone violating those bans would face a class A misdemeanor if they have a concealed handgun license, a lesser crime than the class C felony in the original bill.

Once again we see the utter foolishness of the gun control ideology at work here. Individuals with violent intent aren’t going to be dissuaded by a gun-free zone in the first place, but the idea that they would turn away from carrying out acts of violence because it’s a misdemeanor for them to bring a gun into a gun-free zone is laughable.

The House is also looking at making changes to a proposed gun storage law that, at the moment, would be one of the most restrictive in the nation.

HB 2510, known as the “safe-storage bill,” would require Oregonians to lock their guns when not in use. The bill would create penalties if guns are not stowed properly, require owners to report stolen guns and help facilitate lawsuits against owners whose improperly stored firearms are stolen and used to cause injuries or property damage. The new amendments, however, alter the liability standard for such lawsuits, requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate more elements in order to prevail over gun owners.

It’s not like the changes to these bills will make them acceptable to Second Amendment supporters, and they’re certainly not going to draw praise from gun control groups. So why are Democrats poised to weaken the gun control legislation? Because they want to “do something,” and many of them are convinced this is the only way to get anything done this session.

The changes reflect the strong headwinds gun control bills face in Oregon, despite the fact that Democrats have a supermajority in both legislative chambers. The safe-storage proposal has been introduced each year since 2019, but has been defeated twice amid walkouts by Republican lawmakers.

Republicans still strenuously oppose the proposals, with some openly advocating for walking away from this session last month in order to block SB 554 from passing the Senate in its original form. Republican senators who showed up to oppose the bill, thereby allowing Democrats to hold a vote, have been the target of threats and political backlash. With no guarantee the GOP won’t walk away from the Capitol as the legislative session draws closer to an end, some lawmakers want to pass the gun bills as soon as possible.

The walkout is basically the one tool left for Republican lawmakers to squash gun control legislation, and it sounds like they’re prepared to deploy the strategy in order to sink the anti-2A bills. Democrats appear to be looking for a way to seem “reasonable” with their watered-down language, but the new language isn’t really a compromise with Second Amendment activists as much as it is a transparent political ploy. The amended legislation still targets responsible gun owners while ignoring the violent criminals who are shooting and killing people at a rate not seen for decades in the state. As long as legal gun owners are the focus of the gun control bills, Republicans are right to walk away completely rather than allow these bills to take effect.