Gun control wasn’t the only issue that led to the Republican minority walking out and denying Democrats a quorum for six weeks, but it was one of the key sticking points for those lawmakers who deployed the last-ditch tactic this session. Now the walkout is over, an agreement between the GOP and Democratic leadership is in place, and most of the anti-gun measures that Democrats had prioritized are off the table.
In a major boon for Republicans, Democrats agreed to significant concessions, including key changes to controversial reproductive health care and gun control bills in order to convince the conservative senators to end the longest walkout in state history. Lawmakers now must rush to pass hundreds of bills that have piled up in the Senate, as well as the the state government budget, before the legislative session ends June 25.
“Senate Republicans and Independents stood firm as the last line of defense for parental rights and the rule of law,” Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of their steadfast determination to give their constituents a long-overdue seat at the table.”
Democrats agreed to scrap proposals in their sweeping gun control legislation that would have increased the age to purchase most guns from 18 to 21 and allowed cities or counties to bar people licensed to carry a concealed handgun from doing so in public buildings and onadjacent grounds.
House Bill 2005 still contains a provision that would prohibit the sale and possession of “ghost” guns that can’t be traced. The amended bill passed the Senate on Thursday and must now go back to the House for final approval.
Democrats are also scrapping Senate Bill 348, which would have put some of the key provisions from Measure 114 into statute. Measure 114, the gun safety bill that voters narrowly approved in November, is currently tied up in court.
Along with the concessions on the reproductive and gun bills, Republicans touted other key wins, saying Democrats had agreed to prioritize a bill exempting farming, ranching and timber property from the Oregon Estate Tax and another bill giving the House impeachment power of statewide elected officials and the Senate the power to try impeachments. Democrats also support the bipartisan impeachment bill.
“Today is a victory for Oregonian’s parental rights and law-abiding gun owners. After months of being promised a bipartisan session, Democrats chose to prioritize a partisan and extreme agenda,” said House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, in a statement. “Republicans held the line and were able to amend the worst parts of House Bill 2002 and the Democrats Omnibus Gun Bill, House Bill 2005.”
I’m glad to see the gun ban for under-21s is gone, though if Republicans were gonna do some horse-trading with Democrats I would have preferred to see the “ghost gun” legislation dropped and the legislative version of Measure 114 left in. Most of the provisions of SB 348 are already being challenged as part of the litigation against the narrowly-approved ballot measure, so even if the legislature had passed SB 348 we would have had an excellent chance of blocking it from taking effect while the lawsuits play out.
In a way, however, allowing the Democrats to pass their ban on “ghost guns” is a political gift to the GOP, who can now point to the bizarre fact that its legal to walk around with heroin and meth, but not a home-built firearm, at a time when there are far more Oregonians dying from drug overdoses than shootings. It’s a fundamentally unserious approach to both violent crime and the rampant drug abuse in the state, and the Democrats will have full ownership of both of these policies.
Even though Republicans weren’t able to remove every threat to the Second Amendment during their walkout and negotiations to return, this is a better result than gun owners could have expected under normal circumstances given the size of the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. And the ban on unserialized firearms will be undoubtably face a legal challenge of its own, just like Measure 114, so there’s still a good chance that when the dust settles the Democrats won’t have any new anti-gun victories they can celebrate.