SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon House on Thursday passed a bill, after emotional debate on both sides, that would mandate safe storage of firearms and ban them from the state Capitol.
The bill next goes to the Senate, which had passed a much narrower version of the bill before it was amended. Two separate gun bills had been watered down somewhat and then combined into one measure.
“It would be pretty impactful in (Oregon) as it is currently in the minority of states that has no law aimed at preventing unsupervised gun access by minors,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel at Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group.
The bill is aimed at reducing the number of accidentally shootings by children who get ahold of guns, of suicides and of mass shootings. It requires firearms to be secured with a trigger or cable lock, in a locked container or in gun room. Among those who testified earlier 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.
The bill also authorizes the board of a public university, community college or school district to adopt a policy banning concealed handgun licensees from possessing firearms on school grounds.
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.
Republican lawmakers said the bill will deprive people the ability to protect themselves.
“This bill won’t save lives. It will make criminals out of our law-abiding citizens,” Rep. David Brock Smith, a Republican from Port Orford, said on the House floor.
But Rep. Rachel Prusak, a main sponsor of the bill, said: “The safe storage portion of this bill creates no crime. It does establish that a gun owner may share in the responsibility for civil damages as a result of their carelessness if an unsecured firearm is used to cause harm.”
Previously, the measure imposed strict liability on people who violate the statute and whose guns are used to injure or kill another person. Instead, it now imposes a negligence standard. It also previously would have allowed local governments to prohibit concealed handgun licensees to have guns on their properties. The new version does not allow that.
Rep. Dacia Grayber, a firefighter and paramedic, stood in support of the bill and described coming on the scene of shootings. Her first was the fatal accidental shooting of a child by a friend. They had found a gun under a bed while playing.
“We could not save him, and he died while his father howled the most unimaginable sounds in the next room,” Grayber said, her voice cracking with emotion. “This scene plays out in our state and our country time and time again. And colleagues, it does not have to.”
The bill passed the House with 34 votes in favor and 24 against. Democrats, who overwhelmingly favor the bill, have a majority in both the House and Senate.
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