Looks Like Oregon's Getting More "Gun Free Zones"

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

A gun control bill cleared the Oregon House of Representatives on Thursday, and while they still require a concurrence vote in the state Senate, there’s little chance that the bills will be defeated there. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is one of those politicians who’s never met a gun control law she didn’t like, so the odds are that before long the state is going to see new restrictions placed on legal gun owners.

The bill, Senate Bill 554, next goes to the Senate, which had passed a much narrower version of the bill before it was amended. Two separate gun bills had been watered down somewhat and then combined into one measure.

“It would be pretty impactful in (Oregon) as it is currently in the minority of states that has no law aimed at preventing unsupervised gun access by minors,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel at Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group.

The bill is aimed at reducing the number of accidentally shootings by children who get ahold of guns, of suicides and of mass shootings. It requires firearms to be secured with a trigger or cable lock, in a locked container or in gun room. Among those who testified earlier was Paul Kemp, whose brother-in-law Steve Forsyth was killed with a stolen gun in a mass shooting at a Portland-area shopping mall in 2012.

The bill also authorizes the board of a public university, community college or school district to adopt a policy banning concealed handgun licensees from possessing firearms on school grounds.

The bill would also make the Oregon state capitol a “gun-free zone,” even for those who work in the complex and possess a concealed carry license. The idea that criminals are dissuaded by a policy that forbids the carrying of firearms in certain locations is absurdly naive, and it’s legal gun owners who’ll feel the brunt of the new victim disarmament zones that will be popping up at the state capitol and schools.

The storage law requirements were slightly watered down compared to what was originally proposed, but they’ll still be among the most draconian in the nation, and are likely to face a court challenge once the bill is signed into law.

Republicans objected to the new measure, along with three Democrats in the House, but the GOP caucus didn’t stage a walkout to prevent the bill from getting a vote, as they’ve done in the past.

“This bill won’t save lives. It will make criminals out of our law-abiding citizens,” Rep. David Brock Smith, a Republican from Port Orford, said on the House floor.

But Rep. Rachel Prusak, a main sponsor of the bill, said: “The safe storage portion of this bill creates no crime. It does establish that a gun owner may share in the responsibility for civil damages as a result of their carelessness if an unsecured firearm is used to cause harm.”

Previously, the measure imposed strict liability on people who violate the statute and whose guns are used to injure or kill another person. Instead, it now imposes a negligence standard. It also previously would have allowed local governments to prohibit concealed handgun licensees to have guns on their properties. The new version does not allow that.

Rep. Dacia Grayber, a firefighter and paramedic, stood in support of the bill and described coming on the scene of shootings. Her first was the fatal accidental shooting of a child by a friend. They had found a gun under a bed while playing.

“We could not save him, and he died while his father howled the most unimaginable sounds in the next room,” Grayber said, her voice cracking with emotion. “This scene plays out in our state and our country time and time again. And colleagues, it does not have to.”

Accidental shootings involving unsecured firearms are tragic, but I don’t believe that a law mandating certain storage requirements is the answer. These laws impose penalties after the fact, but they don’t do anything to prevent these types of shootings from taking place. A better approach would involve education and training, particularly in those communities that have long been hostile to gun ownership and view guns themselves as taboo items. That would take real work, however, and Democrats apparently found it easier to slap another law on the books instead of developing outreach programs to educate gun owners on the need to ensure that unsupervised kids can’t get their hands on a gun in the home.

Dec 02, 2021 7:30 PM ET