With Measure 114 on hold thanks to the courts, Oregon Democrats are hoping to use their lopsided majority in the state legislature to impose more restrictions on the state’s responsible gun owners. Three new anti-gun bills have been introduced in Salem, and the first hearings are already set for next week.
The bills aren’t duplicates of the pistol-purchase-permit and ban on “large capacity” magazines that were narrowly approved by voters last November and put on ice by a Harney County judge shortly thereafter. Instead, the measures are targeting home-built firearms, raising the age to purchase a firearm, and creating new “gun-free zones” where lawful concealed carry would be banned.
The three new bills are:
- House Bill 2005 would punish the manufacturing, sales and possession of undetectable firearms intended to skirt security screenings and untraceable firearms that lack a serial number.
- House Bill 2006 would increase from 18 to 21 the legal age to purchase or possess a firearm. The proposal would have exceptions for firearms used for hunting and for people younger than 21 who are in the military or police officers.
- House Bill 2007 would allow cities and counties to restrict people licensed to carry a concealed handgun from possessing a firearm on the agency’s buildings or grounds.
All three bills are scheduled for informational hearings and public discussion next Wednesday, and House Bill 2005 is also scheduled for a vote on March 28.
No Republicans have signed onto the bills as sponsors. House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, said lawmakers in her party will scrutinize the legislation as it moves forward.
“Our caucus’ purview as it relates to firearms is as follows: House Republicans will always fight for the constitutionally protected rights of law abiding gun owners in Oregon,” Breese-Iverson said in a statement. “As we continue to wade through this legislation, our position will remain that law abiding gun owners should not be punished for the actions of criminals.”
Which is clearly not the position of Oregon’s Democratic majority. In their view, the best way to improve public safety is to turn the right to keep and bear arms into as many criminal offenses as possible, and for several years now they’ve been able to point to the shocking rise in violent crime in Portland as a big reason why more gun control laws are needed.
As it turns out, though, homicides in the city are down considerably this year, despite the fact that no new gun control laws have gone into effect between 2022 and now.
According to the police, nine people were killed in Portland in January and February of this year, most by shootings. That compares to 19 during the first two months of 2022 — a 53% decrease.
Police responded to 160 shootings in the first two months of 2023. That compares to 245 in the same period last year — a 35% decrease.
The only figure that did not change was the number of non-fatal shooting injuries. There were 44 in January and February 2023 compared to 44 in the same period last year.
The decreases are a welcome trend, especially if it continues through the year. There were 94 homicides in 2022, the most ever recorded in Portland. There were 1,306 total shootings last year, a slight decrease from the 1,315 in 2021 but significantly more that the 916 in 2020.
It is unclear why homicides and shootings have fallen so much. Although the bureau has hired additional officers in recent months to address a staffing shortage, most are still being trained and have not been deployed.
Crime is complex, so there are a variety of factors at work here, but the addition of new gun control laws isn’t among them because Measure 114 hasn’t actually taken effect. As KOIN-TV reports, though, changes in policing tactics and strategies appear to be paying off. The Portland Police Bureau has been working with Dr. Jeffrey W. Tyne from the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s School of Medicine to dig into the data around the department’s Stolen Vehicle Operations efforts to stop stolen vehicles, and the department says the data-driven approach is paying off.
In the non-evidence-based practice missions conducted by the SVO team, only one in every 31 vehicles stopped was occupied stolen, and the arrest ratio was one in every six, with a gun being found in one out of every 144 vehicles being stopped.
But in the missions conducted after the evidence-based practices were applied, the number of stops decreased, but the likelihood of finding a stolen vehicle being actively driven greatly increased. According to the bureau, now one in every six vehicles stopped by the team is a stolen, someone is arrested once in every three stops, and a gun is found in one out of every twenty-six stops.
It’s amazing what happens when you take a targeted approach to combatting violent crime rather than casting a wide net over generally law-abiding citizens in the hopes of ensnaring bad actors as well. Using this data-driven strategy far fewer stops are being made, which means far fewer needless encounters between police and legal owners of their vehicles, and yet more car thieves are being uncovered and arrested and more illegally-possessed firearms are being recovered.
Tactics like these are a much better way of addressing violent crime than forbidding young adults from exercising a fundamental right, turning the possession of a home-built firearm into a criminal offense, or telling concealed carry licensees that they’re forbidden from bearing arms on county-owned property. Oregon doesn’t need any more gun laws to reduce crime, but Democrats know that the only way they can cut down on the number of legal gun owners is to criminalize the right to keep and bear arms.