House Bill 4145—which broadens current firearm prohibition to include people convicted of domestic violence or stalking a partner despite their marital status—passed through Oregon’s state legislature and was signed into state law by Oregon’s Governor, Kate Brown, on March 5. After much disagreement, the measure passed 16-13 in the Oregon Legislature with support from all the Democrat representatives but one: Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose. Every Republican Senator voted against it.
Previously, if a couple was married and the spouse was convicted of a domestic violence crime, they would be prohibited from purchasing a firearm, but partners and close family members weren’t restricted in the same way.
Supporters say the “boyfriend loophole” put women and law enforcement officials in danger of being shot during a domestic dispute. Several members of Congress have even said they may consider a similar national policy in light of the Parkland shooting, where a lone gunman—who had allegedly abused a former girlfriend—was able to legally purchase the gun used to massacre 17 people on school grounds in Florida on February 14.
In a speech supporting the Bill, Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat, gun owner, and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the policy is a “common-sense step” to addressing gun-related deaths by domestic abusers. “In my own situation, involving my sister, her murderer was her boyfriend,” Prozanski told his fellow lawmakers. “Her murderer was her intimate partner. Her murderer was her domestic abuser. Her murderer killed her with a handgun.”
He said that it was time to take steps to prevent domestic violence abusers from becoming a statistic, citing that 52 percent of women killed in the U.S. by guns from 2010 to 2014 were killed by an intimate partner or family member.
Republicans and Sen. Johnson voiced concerns that the Bill is too vague in its definition of “intimate partner.” “It would be so easy to vote yes on this bill, especially after the events of last week. But this is no time for an emotional response,” Johnson argued. “Do we really want to give dating partners a new tool for when things go sour?”
The chamber’s Republicans, led by Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass, attempted to stop passage of the Bill by asking that it be moved back to a committee for amendments. He described the Bill as “unjust” and unfinished and said senators should consider it further before making it law. He expressed dissatisfaction with Democrats when he said, “my colleagues on the other side of the aisle don’t seem to want to have any compromise.”
Prozanski, in turn, acknowledged that the Bill may not be perfect, but said the policy can be amended in the future. “The bottom line is we are taking steps as we see them,” he said.
A couple of hours after the governor signed the Bill, Brown met with students from different Oregon schools to discuss gun legislation in her office. They agreed further restrictions on access to guns as well as student access to mental health counseling are still needed.