Battle over gun-protection legislation isn't over yet
Think all the fights of the 2017 legislative session are over?
Not in the ever-controversial arena of gun laws.
Two local lawmakers, Sens. Ginny Burdick and Brian Boquist, drew praise and anger for sponsoring Senate Bill 719, the Extreme Risk Protection Order that allows family members and police officers to petition a judge for an order to temporarily remove a firearm from the possession of someone deemed to be a suicide risk or a risk to others.
Burdick, an urban Democrat whose district includes Tigard, teamed up with the GOP's Boquist, a conservative from Dallas, Ore., whose district extends through the center of Washington County.
Now two Republican lawmakers and a former candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives are seeking to repeal that law.
Reps. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, and Bill Post, R-Keizer, plus Teri Grier of North Bend have filed paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office to begin circulating a petition to repeal the law.
The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown on Aug. 16, takes effect Jan. 1.
The petitioners must gather at least 58,789 valid signatures by Oct. 5 to land the referendum on the 2018 ballot.
Burdick said she hopes the signature count comes in low, but if it doesn't, she said she's not worried. Voters in Washington overwhelmingly passed a similar bill in 2016.
In both states, the law is patterned after existing rules that allow weapons to be temporarily removed from people under court order to protect victims of domestic violence.
The California Assembly passed a similar bill in 2014.
"This law is intended to prevent suicides and mass shootings, when those things can be predicted," said Burdick, who has long championed Oregon laws to battle illegal use of guns.
The law does not allow police to remove a gun before taking the issue before a judge. Those whose weapons have been confiscated also have the right to seek a second judge's opinion to get the weapon back.
"Remember, this has to go to a judge," Burdick added. "People's (Second Amendment) rights are being protected here."
Boquist told The Times there won't be a new fight. He called it "campaign hype."
He said proponents, "would need to gather 58,000 signatures in 35 days. That costs $300,000 plus in real money. They raised pennies. They waited two months to even file their petition."
Public health officials have pushed for this sort of law.
"We know that suicide attempts often occur shortly after people make the decision to act on their suicidal thoughts in times of crisis and are most often completed with easily accessible firearms," said Tricia Mortell, Washington County Public Health Division manager. "Also guns are more lethal than most other methods people try. Implementation of strategies that make suicide more difficult can save lives."
Washington County Epidemiologist Dr. Kim Repp agrees. "Research shows that, once a person has decided on a means, they rarely switch — and if they do switch means due to inaccessibility of chosen means, it takes them weeks or months to develop a new plan," Repp said.
"This allows for more time for intervention," Repp added. "Impulsive suicides are most often completed with easily accessible firearms. Simply put, people don't impulsively use other non-firearm means because they take a lot more work and planning and longer to carry out, and by then, the impulse has passed."
In the Senate, the 2017 bill passed largely along party lines, 17-to-11. Boquist joined 16 Democrats to send the legislation to the House, where it passed 31-to-28.
Boquist lost his 31-year-old step-son and Navy veteran to suicide Feb. 16, 2016, in the midst of that year's Legislative session.
He wrote a statement read by Senate President Peter Courtney the day after the suicide that his son, Seth Sprague, had "never fully recovered from the tragedy of war."
Boquist said he also lost three soldiers under his Army command to suicide after they returned from the Iraq War more than a decade ago.
By Dana Haynes
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