Monday, May 11, 2015

Victory in Oregon! Universal Background Checks Enacted!

Monday was a tremendous day of success for Oregonians and the gun violence prevention movement!

After a concerted effort this session, we were able to get a bill requiring background checks for ALL gun purchases, including private transfers, through the Oregon Senate, House, and finally, Monday, signed by Governor Brown.

The bill takes effect immediately.  Now, if a gun owner wishes to sell a gun to someone other than
Governor Brown signing Senate Bill 941
immediate family members, the seller and the buyer must appear at a licensed firearms dealer to complete the sale, and, for a small fee, the buyer must pass a standard background check.

With more licensed dealers in the state than there are Starbucks and post offices combined, and an average wait time of only 5 minutes for the background check to be completed, it is a minor inconvenience for gun owners with a very significant gain for public safety.

Prior to this, background checks were only required at gun stores and gun shows in Oregon.  Hundreds are denied by the background checks every month in Oregon, to the tune of around 2000 a year!  Most of these were convicted felons, but some were also due to being adjudicated mentally insane, convicted of domestic violence, had warrants for their arrest, were underage, or were dishonorably discharged.  That's 2000 guns that were not put into the wrong hands.  Background checks work!

But all they needed to do was leave the store, answer a private ad, meet the seller in a parking lot, and then walk away with all the guns they could pay for, no background check required.  At last, we have stopped this gaping loophole!

Oregon now joins both Washington and California to complete the entire west coast in this regard.


-- Senate Bill 941 also calls for law enforcement to be notified whenever a person fails a background check so that they can be held accountable for the attempt.

-- There are exemptions for hunting and for sharing guns at a gun range.

-- People who are dangerously mentally ill can more easily be prevented from purchasing a gun while undergoing treatment for the illness

-- and sellers are held accountable, as well....

From an article:  "The seller of a gun would face a misdemeanor for a first offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. A second offense would be a felony, with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine."

Prior to this, the seller could just pretend not to have known that the buyer was prohibited and they would get off with it.  No more excuses!  This is a serious loss for black market gun runners!

Every Republican in the Oregon Senate and House voted against it.  But as I've commented before, numerous polls of Oregonians have shown support for the bill to the tune of 80-90%!! This mirrors numerous national polls, as well, where even 85% of gun owners support the regulation.

So who are the opponents representing??  A tiny fringe of pro-gun advocates?  The money from the NRA?  Aren't our elected leaders of our representational democracy supposed to actually represent the majority of their constituents?

Though this is a tremendous victory, we still have a long way to go.  For instance, there is a bill being considered right now in Oregon to require gun owners with children in the home to lock up their guns.  And there are dangerous bills to oppose, such as a bill that would allow conceal permit holders from very lenient states to have their permits recognized here, where requirements are at least a little more responsible, or a bill that would require schools to provide pro-gun training to kids as young as kindergarten!  We must stay vigilante and not let down our guard!  Shootings and gun crimes continue every day in Oregon.

But for the moment, we must bask in the glory of a job well done. 

We at Ceasefire Oregon would like to thank the legislators who sponsored this bill and helped champion it through the years, such as Floyd Prozanski, Ginny Burdick, and Val Hoyle, the numerous members of the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety coalition, and the many, many volunteers who helped make this happen and who gave passionate testimony.

Together, we will make a new trajectory for our state away from gun violence.

UPDATE (6/4/15):  To see the pro-gun response to this responsible bill, go HERE.