SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Democrats in an Oregon Senate committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would allow jurisdictions to decide whether people with concealed handgun license can bring guns into a public building.
Over the opposition of Republicans and numerous gun owners, the Judiciary Committee recommended the bill be passed by the full Senate with amendments. If it passes there, it would then go to the House.
Under current Oregon law, a person with a concealed handgun license can possesses a firearm or other weapon while in a public building. The bill authorizes any city, county, commercial airport, school district, college or university to limit or preclude a concealed handgun licensee from possessing firearms in public buildings.
The issue is even more important in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, said Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat. In a virtual public hearing Monday on the bill, she cited a U.S. Department of Homeland Security bulletin on Jan. 27 that warned extremists may be emboldened by the breach of the U.S. Capitol to target elected officials and government facilities.
“More than 300,000 Oregonians have concealed handgun licenses. Right now, all of these people have access to public buildings. As a person who works in the Capitol and has watched the armed protests at our Capitol and around the country, the protections offered by Senate Bill 554 cannot come soon enough,” Burdick said.
Sen. Fred Girod, the Senate Republican leader, testified that he’d feel defenseless without a gun. He and his wife both have concealed handgun permits, he said.
“This building, I hate to tell you, is not safe,” Girod said, testifying by video from his Capitol office. “I’ll be darned if I’m going to be a sitting duck for someone that comes in here and wants to start shooting. That’s just not right.”
Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican and vice chair of the committee, said 2,000 pieces of written testimony have come in. It underscores the passion people feel in support of, and opposition to, gun control.
Many residents objected to the measure.
“Airports and schools will become an even more attractive target for criminals who don’t have to worry about a law-abiding citizen concealing the means to fight back,” wrote Anthony Fields, of Milwaukie, Oregon.
Proponents noted that jurisdictions would be able to decide how to proceed. For now, the law gives them no say in the matter.
“School districts are powerless to keep parents from bringing guns to parent-teacher conferences or to sporting events; city councils and county commissions cannot keep audience members from bringing firearms to contentious debate,” Burdick said. “In the Oregon Capitol we cannot keep angry protesters from bringing loaded AR-15s into the building. And yes, that has actually happened.”
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