When you think of anti-gun West Coast states, your mind probably turns to California automatically. It stands to reason, of course. California has earned its reputation, after all.
However, Oregon is working to beef up its anti-gun street cred as well.
Oregon lawmakers took up the main gun-control bill of this short session on Wednesday, a measure that would bar more people involved in domestic violence situations from owning guns.
Specifically, the prohibition in House Bill 4145 would apply to anyone subject to a restraining order by a family member or sexual partner, as well as to people convicted of stalking — a misdemeanor crime.
The bill also would mean more enforcement of the state’s existing background checks on gun sales by requiring Oregon State Police to report people who fail a background check to their local law enforcement agencies for potential follow-up.
As always, the possible gun legislation drew a flood of supporters and opponents to the Capitol, who delivered at-times passionate testimony to legislators during an initial public hearing.
On the surface, disarming people who have a restraining order against them makes sense. After all, restraining orders are put in place to protect people who are being threatened by someone’s actions, right?
However, Oregon gun rights activists make a point regarding restraining orders.
But opponents said the bill would be an overreach that could have unintended consequences.
Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation argued that a restraining order can be obtained against someone with little evidence, which means falsely accused people could lose their right to bear arms.
He added that the bill would “punish” someone who is complying with a restraining order by taking away his or her gun.
Phil Watson of the Oregon Firearms Policy Coalition said people facing a restraining order “would likely be guilty until proven innocent.”
“The impacts on (those people) are extreme: loss of rights, money, job prospects, and family turmoil,” he said.
They’re not wrong.
While I understand the concerns, restraining orders are fairly simple to get. While there is due process, we’ve also seen them used as punishment against people who have done nothing wrong. That means innocent people are being denied their right to self-defense simply because a vindictive individual has used the legal system against them.
That’s not even remotely right, and that’s where the issue with bills like this lie.
No one wants dangerous people armed, but we have to balance that against the risk of depriving innocent people of their Second Amendment rights.
I’m not going to pretend that I have the perfect solution for something like this. I don’t.
However, I’m going to point out one very important thing that needs to be understood. Restraining orders are only as effective as the person they’re issued against allows them to be.
If someone follows the law–in this case, a restraining order–then the restraining order is more than enough on its own to keep someone safe. If it’s not enough, then it’s because someone will ignore the law in order to cause harm to someone else. Does anyone really believe those people will be stopped simply because it’s illegal for them to own a gun?
Not by a long shot.