SALEM – Oregon lawmakers have scheduled about four hours of public hearings on Tuesday to tackle what’s shaping up to be this year’s principal gun legislation.
In the morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take testimony on a 44-page proposal that would, among other things, penalize some gun owners who fail to lock up their guns and allow gun dealers to refuse to sell guns to people younger than 21. In the afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee will consider a more limited gun safety bill.
Leading up to the hearings, most of the rhetoric has been focused on the Senate legislation, Senate Bill 978.
Supporters include Cease Fire Oregon, which called the amendment to Senate Bill 978 “important legislation that will reduce gun violence.”
Their perennial opponent at the state capitol, the Oregon Firearms Federation, minced no words: “This bill could be the most extreme attack on gun rights in Oregon history,” the group wrote in an email to its members.
The legislation would allow Oregon gun dealers to refuse to sell weapons to people under age 21. Current state law sets a minimum age of 18 to purchase rifles and shotguns.
Some retailers raised their age limit to 21 following the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. The shooter was 19-years-old.
But the change drew a flurry of lawsuits from 18, 19 and 20-year-olds who claimed the higher age limit violates Oregon law, which prohibits discrimination based on age.
The proposed change would shield retailers from those accusations, by giving gun dealers the right to set their own age limit, as long as it’s 18, 19, 20 or 21.
The amendment to Senate Bill 978 would also make owners liable for harm caused by someone who obtains a gun that is not locked up, if that harm occurs within two years. If the person who obtains an unsecured gun is a minor, the gun owner can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Portions of the porposed law are entitled the “Cindy Yuille and Steve Forsyth Act.” Both Yuille and Forsyth were killed during the 2012 shooting at Clackamas Town Center.
Police said the shooter had stolen the semiautomatic rifle used in the rampage from a friend. Relatives of both Yuille and Forsyth have testified multiple times at the state capitol for stricter gun laws.
Another section of the lengthy amendment would allow local governments, including school districts, to ban all firearms from public buildings, including those carried by concealed handgun license holders. Those bans would include the grounds adjacent to those buildings.
The ban on firearms could also include the parking lots at Portland International Airport, which means that gun owners who pick up or drop off a passenger could be in violation of the law, even if their weapon is locked in their trunk. However, it would not apply to someone who carries an unloaded firearm in a locked, hard-sided container for the purposes of checking the container onto a flight, in accordance with federal law.
The bill would not automatically lead to those restrictions, but it would allow local governments, school districts and the Port of Portland to enact the regulations if they wished.
The bill would also raise fees for concealed carry permits, require hospitals to report to the Oregon Health Authority when they’ve treated someone for a firearms injury, and put in place new regulations meant to reduce the number of “untraceable” and “undetectable” firearms, including those made using 3D printers.
On the House side, the bill up for a hearing on Tuesday afternoon, House Bill 2013, is far less sweeping. It would require people convicted of domestic violence or stalking crimes to turn over their weapons. They’re already prohibited from possessing firearms, but the measure would clarify that they would have to turn their weapons over to a law enforcement agency.
It’s possible that lawmakers will consider other firearms legislation. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to advance several measures relating to firearms on Tuesday for the stated purpose of keeping them alive after a legislative deadline next week. That would allow another House committee not subject to the deadline to make changes and send the bill to the floor later in the session.
“We don’t know if we’re going to need some of those later on,” House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Monday.