Oregon gun storage law would be among the
toughest in the US
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A proposed gun storage law that would be
among the toughest in the U.S. is headed for a vote in the
Oregon Legislature, with backers saying it will save lives and
opponents contending it could lead to deaths.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, a less sweeping gun storage bill was
signed into law Monday by Gov. Jared Polis., who said: “It’s a
sensible measure to help avoid immeasurable heartbreak.”
Colorado’s new law creates the offense of unlawful storage of a
firearm if a person stores a gun knowing that a juvenile could
access it without permission or if a resident of the premises is
ineligible to possess a firearm.
Oregon’s bill generated testimony from hundreds of people,
mostly in writing because there wasn’t enough time to take all
the oral testimony.
A vote in Oregon's House of
Representatives on the bill, initially
scheduled for Monday, was pushed back by a week to enable
Democratic representatives to work with the Senate “to guarantee
the bill is on track to pass and be enacted,” said Hannah
Kurowski, spokeswoman for the majority House Democrats.
Among those testifying was Paul Kemp, whose brother-in-law Steve
Forsyth was killed with a stolen gun in a mass shooting at a
Portland-area shopping mall in 2012.
“I will never forget the screams I heard when we had to tell my
teenage nephew that his father had been killed at the mall,”
But opponents say forcing people to keep guns locked up could
waste precious moments if they need to defend themselves against
Jim Mischel, of Sheridan, Oregon, described how his wife woke up
when he was away one night in 1981. She heard a noise, went to
investigate and saw that a man had broken into their home.
She returned to the bedroom and tried to get to a pistol that
was in a locked gun box in the nightstand.
“She was unable to get the box unlocked and the pistol out
before he got into the bedroom and threatened her with his gun,”
Mischel said. “She has never recovered.”
The debate in Oregon over guns mirrors similar discussions being
held nationwide, with little movement on gun control even as the
number of mass shootings climbs again as the nation eases
coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Massachusetts is the only state that requires that all
unattended firearms be stored with locking devices in place,
according to the Giffords gun safety advocacy group. Penalties
for violations can range from imprisonment to thousands of
dollars in fines.
States that have passed laws requiring some level of firearms
safe storage include California, Connecticut and New York, said
Allison Anderman, senior counsel at Giffords.
Similar bills this session have failed in Illinois, Kentucky,
Montana, New Mexico and Virginia, Anderman said.
Oregon's bill mandates that gun owners secure unattended weapons
with trigger locks or in locked compartments. Those who don't
would be strictly liable for any injuries or property damage. If
a minor gets ahold of an unsecured firearm, the gun's owner
would face a maximum $2,000 fine.
Tensions are running high as the Oregon Legislature considers
this and other gun bills, even leading to death threats.
Recently, six Republican state senators stayed for a vote on a
different firearms bill, instead of doing a walkout in what has
become a tactic for them to prevent a vote from taking place.
That bill would ban guns from the Capitol and other state
buildings and allow local jurisdictions to decide whether people
with a concealed handgun license can bring guns into public
They voted “nay” on the bill instead of joining a GOP boycott to
deny a quorum. All six GOP senators who stayed got threatening
emails. They have been turned over to the Oregon State Police
“You should be shot,” said one of the emails.
Advocates for the gun storage bill have said it would reduce
suicides. Anderman said putting anything between a person’s
impulse to take their own life and a gun could give the person a
moment to reconsider.
Elizabeth Klein testified in favor of the bill “on behalf of my
deceased brother,” who killed himself with a gun.
“My family is devastated by my brother’s gun suicide. It always
seems preventable to me,” Klein wrote.
Safe storage could also reduce school shootings. Minors who
commit those attacks often obtain the gun from their home or the
home of a relative or friend.
Opponents have said the bill is an infringement on the
constitutional right to bear arms.
“As usual, the Second Amendment is under attack because
attacking it is a perennial favorite with Democrats and has been
for years,” said James Purvine of Eugene, Oregon, who testified
in writing to the House Committee on Health Care about the bill.
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