Oregon Republicans hope to stymie anti-gun bills in legislature

Oregon Republicans hope to stymie anti-gun bills in legislature
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Can Republican lawmakers in Oregon block any new gun control measures from becoming law? They don’t have the numbers in either the state House or Senate to defeat anti-gun bills outright, but Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp says he and his fellow conservatives will do all that they can to slow the progress of the Democrats’ proposals, pointing to the massive opposition to Measure 114 seen in most parts of the state.


Republican lawmakers had actually walked out of legislative sessions in previous years, but another voter-approved referendum last November now disqualifies legislators from serving if they have more than ten “unexcused absences” over the course of a legislative session, so that option appears to be off the table. Instead, Knopp is forcing every bill that comes to the floor to be read in its entirety; a rule that he hopes will slow down the anti-Second Amendment sausage-making in Salem.

“Almost every county that we represent as Republicans rejected Measure 114 and doesn’t want additional infringement upon their ability to defend themselves under the Second Amendment,” Knopp said, referring to the initiative that voters narrowly approved last year that tightens rules for gun purchases and restricts the use of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Knopp said some Republicans oppose the passage of bills to help implement Measure 114, which has been delayed by legal challenges.

Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat from Lake Oswego, was unperturbed Monday by Republicans’ early session zeal for bill reading.

“We had this conversation with some of our members who might not have as long a memory,” Wagner said. “Bill reading is nothing new.” He said that Democrats are planning to hold enough floor sessions to keep up with the workload and don’t believe the tactic will prevent them from voting on all their priority legislation.
Wagner said he meets with Knopp regularly and is optimistic the two caucuses can reach an agreement at some point. As for whether ratcheting down allowed rent increases and additional gun safety regulations are musts for Democrats this session, Wagner said that “it depends who you’re talking to.”
A couple of points here. First, Knopp is right that almost every county represented by Republicans voted against Measure 114, and by pretty wide margins. The gun control referendum was only approved by 50.7% of Oregon voters last November, and Portland the surrounding suburbs provided the margin of victory for the anti-gun activists hoping to establish a “permit-to-purchase” regime and ban ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. Those new laws are now on hold thanks to a judge in Harney County, who granted an injunction against enforcement after ruling that the measures are likely to violate the right to keep and bear arms found in Oregon’s state constitution.
Voters in these counties expect their representatives to fight to defend their rights, even if they’re in the minority in the legislature, so I’m not surprised to see Republicans vow to do whatever they can to stymie any new anti-2A legislation. Wagner’s comment, on the other hand, is somewhat unexpected, and indicates that there are some Democrats who aren’t exactly eager to take up more gun control measures this session.
There’s a small but vocal contingent of Democrats in the state who actually are supportive of the right to keep and bear arms, and I’d love to believe that they’re having an impact on at least a few lawmakers, but there might be a couple of other factors at play here, starting with the fact that, so far anyway, the biggest impact of Measure 114 has been an explosion in gun sales across the state. As we reported just a few days ago:
In January 2022 Oregon had 23,939 NICS checks for firearm transfers. In January of 2023, as Measure 114 was being implemented and challenged in court, the number shot up to 48,206; an incredible increase of 101%. Gun sales doubled in Oregon last month compared year-to-year, and the only reason to explain it is the number of Oregonians rushing to buy a firearm ahead of the idiotic permit-to-purchase aspect of the gun control initiative taking effect; something that hasn’t happened both because of the courts and the fact that the state wasn’t ready to implement the half-cocked regime despite assurances to the contrary.
The NICS figure could also undercount the true demand for firearms in Oregon. So many people have been trying to purchase guns in the state over the past few months that the Oregon State Police have reported backlogs in submitting NICS requests, so the 44,225 checks that were reported may not represent those who are currently waiting for their check to be submitted or approved.
What we do know is that demand spiked as soon as it became apparent that Measure 114 had been approved by voters (it ultimately received 50.7% support). There were more than 86,000 checks in November, and another 68,000 or so in December; both far higher than historic averages.
To put it even further into perspective, between January and October of last year, there were 267,725 NICS checks on gun transfers across the state. Over the past three months, since Measure 114’s passage, there’ve been 203,274.
Some Democrats may finally be waking up to the fact that trying to strip responsible citizens of a fundamental right has unanticipated consequences, including more guns being sold, and would like hit the pause button on their gun control efforts, even temporarily. Whether enough of them have learned that lesson that the current crop of anti-gun legislation will be put on hold remains to be seen, but Wagner’s hinting that some of his fellow Democrats don’t see gun control as a major priority this session is an encouraging sign.

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