A bill to require gun owners to safely store their firearms and to allow schools and other sensitive public buildings to ban guns is on its way to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk, after the Oregon Senate approved it on a 17-7 vote Wednesday.
Senate Bill 554 is this session’s most high-profile gun legislation. While it was the subject of an hours long debate in the House, the Senate’s discussion was relatively brief. Six senators were not present.
“The vast majority of gun owners in this state are not going to be directly impacted by this,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, responding to criticisms that the bill would keep gun owners from being able to defend themselves. “Most gun owners are very reasonable and understand those weapons are deadly, and they do in fact need to make certain they are safely secure.”
But Republicans said the requirements that owners of guns store them in a gun safe or disable them with a trigger lock, along with the potential banning of guns at places including the Portland Airport and the state capitol, would put Oregonians at risk.
“It clearly infringes on the right to peoples’ self-defense,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend.
Another Republican, Sen. Lynn Findley of Vale, said he feared for his own safety. “When I come into this Capitol, I bring a gun,” he said. “Have you seen all the homeless people and the other people walking around here in the evening? I do not feel overly safe outside this building at night.”
Advocacy groups in favor of stricter gun laws applauded the bill’s passage.
“Safe storage saves lives, helping prevent unintentional shootings and firearm suicides,” said Henry Wessinger, president of State of Safety Action. “It will make it harder for potential school shooters to obtain a gun, and it will support responsible gun ownership.”
Not surprisingly, groups that oppose gun legislation blasted the vote. In fact, the Oregon Firearms Federation said Republicans should have walked out of the session to prevent the vote from even taking place at all.
“Your God given rights to keep your family safe have just been flushed down the toilet by Republicans,” the group said in an email to supporters.
Six senators were not present for the vote: four Republicans and two former GOP Senators who now call themselves independents. The same group of lawmakers also skipped an earlier vote on Senate Bill 554 in March. Because the bill was amended in the House, it required a concurrence vote in the Senate in order to be sent to the governor. Both times the Senate took up the gun bill, six Republicans showed up for the vote, although each of them voted no. Democrat Betsy Johnson of Scapoose joined the six in voting no Wednesday.
Liz Meerah, a spokesperson for Brown, said the governor would “review” the bill, but said the Democrat “has continually spoken out about the need to pass sensible gun legislation.”
Brown has accepted large donations from gun safety proponents: $250,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $750,000 from his advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
A recent poll of Oregonians conducted by Portland opinion research firm DHM Research found a majority in favor of allowing government bodies to ban guns from their buildings, with 59% answering that they “strong support” or “somewhat support” the concept.
Support was much stronger among Democrats and people living in the Portland metro area.
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