The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, where lawmakers meet to discuss newly proposed gun control bills. Photo by M.O. Stevens, through Wikimedia Commons.

Lawmakers in Oregon are gearing up for the 2019 legislative session, considering several important bills. These bills include everything from improved mental health practices, blood alcohol level restrictions, and wine packaging agreements. A few of the more important and definitely more controversial pieces of legislation on the minds of Oregonians are new gun safety bills. This hot button topic is something that Oregon democrats have been talking about for a while, and have even successfully gotten legislation passed. In February 2018, state legislators passed a law that prohibits people convicted of stalking and domestic violence or under restraining orders from buying or owning firearms or ammunition. Despite this serious piece of legislation being passed, Oregon still wants to do more for gun safety.

The Oregon legislature will be considering bills that intend to increase gun control and most importantly and most directly tighten up gun safety in the state of Oregon. If successfully supported and passed, these bills would require new gun storage measures, crack down on purchasing firearms without a permit, and green light firearm safety lessons in schools. These and many other bills are being discussed during this session.

There are numerous gun related bills being proposed. House Bill 2505 would require that gun owners secure their firearms with a trigger lock and store them in a safe, locked container when not being used. This bill is sponsored by Northeast Portland Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, representing district 45. It is being called The Cindy Yuille and Steve Forsyth Act after the victims of the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting. In a press conference last year, Jenna Yuille, Cindy Yuille’s daughter, said, “We still have not passed any laws in Oregon that still might actually prevent a shooting like the one that happened at Clackamas Town Center.”

House Bill 2705 would create a “Do Not Sell” list for gun venders. This list is fully voluntary, meaning that it would only list individuals who want to be added to the list. California has had bills similar to this introduced in the past, aiming to allow those who have had prior mental illness or suicidal thoughts to intentionally stop themselves from being able to obtain a gun.

There are two bills being introduced this session that involve the minimum age for accessing a gun. Senate Bill 87 aims to raise the minimum age for buying a gun in Oregon from 18 to 21, and House Bill 2251 introduced at request of Gov. Kate Brown would stop the transfer of assault rifles to any person under the age of 21.

The most strict gun bill being introduced is Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Sen. Rob Wagner (D- Lake Oswego) and Rep. Andrea Salinas (D- Tualatin) at the request of Students for Change in Lake Oswego. Senate Bill 501 aims to achieve a wide variety of gun control goals, and, if passed, would be among one of the strictest gun laws in the United States. Senate Bill 501 requires a person receive a permit before purchasing a firearm, requires gun owners to properly secure and store guns while not in use, and requires owners to report any loss or theft of their firearm to law enforcement immediately. SB 501 also prohibits possession of magazine with capacity to hold more than five rounds of ammunition and restricts ammunition receipt to 20 rounds within a 30-day period, with a criminal background check required for transfer of ammunition. Failure to comply with this potential law would result in a hefty fine, and possibly jail time.

Members of Students for Change say the bill is not unrealistic. There are currently 14 bills submitted to the Oregon Legislature regarding gun reform—SB 501 just calls for the widest range of changes. Sen. Rob Wagner, one of the sponsors of the bill, spoke about SB 501. “It’s probably a long shot that something like this passes in whole cloth,” says Wagner. “What we told them [Students for Change] is that this is your movement, and we want to support you as representatives.”

Despite backlash, members of Students for Change are continuing to push for this bill. Penelope Spurr, a member of Students for Change, says “we don’t just want to propose the bill and sit back and let it go. We want to do more.”  

 Lakeridge High School student Eli Counce, who founded Students for Change, says now that the bill has been introduced, he feels a bit closer to safety. “It feels like we’re on the cusp of something big,” he said. “This bill is really valuable. I don’t think that what our bill is proposing is all that radical. It’s really just sensible gun safety. It’s common-sense stuff.”

Bills like these never come without debate. Many feel that the bill is too harsh and restrictive, saying that it won’t achieve what it sets out to accomplish. In an interview with a Medford news station, owner of Black Flag Armory Eric Gramer voiced his opinion on the proposed bill. “It’s just so ridiculous, I guess is the best word I can think of to use for it. It’s so over the top.” he says. Gramer understands why lawmakers would propose a bill like SB 501, but does not believe it will be effective. “I understand the overall goal is to reduce crime and to have a better quality of life,” says Gramer, “but I think there are way better ways to do it.”

It is unclear whether or not the proposed bills will pass, based on current uncertainty of the effectiveness of the bill. These gun control and safety bills are aimed to increase Oregonians’ sense of safety regarding guns, and discussion concerning these bills continue in Salem as the 2019 legislative session gets fully underway.

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