SALEM, Ore. — 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 offence 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,” Kemp said.
But opponents say forcing people to keep guns locked up could waste precious moments if they need to defend themselves against armed intruders.
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.
Associated Press writer James Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.
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