Gun control: Is now the time for the conversation?
The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas once again shows just how tragic it is when individuals turn guns against their fellow man. Lives were cut short too early and many are still struggling to overcome serious, life-threatening injuries. No matter where one stands on gun control, there is no question this was a horrific event that has impacted not just those in Las Vegas, but also many around the country who watched in disbelief. It has brought back painful memories of Umpqua Community College, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Columbine and Sandy Hook.
After yet another mass shooting, many of us are asking why. Why would someone commit such a heinous act? Why does this keep happening? Why does it seem so difficult to take actions that might stop another event like this in the future?
I can't answer those questions. But, at a time when the national debate around guns seems to be heading toward another political stalemate, I am heartened that our Oregon legislators found a way to come together to take common sense action.
During the 2017 legislative session, the Oregon Extreme Risk Protection Order law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kate Brown. An attempt at gathering signatures to refer the measure to voters failed, so the new law will take effect on January 1. It will allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to temporarily confiscate weapons from individuals who are determined to be an imminent threat to themselves or others. Seems like common sense.
There are those who say we need to do more. I agree. Even this new Oregon law, although limited in scope, created a contentious debate, revealing the stark divide existing in our country when it comes to the topic of guns. In my view, that means we need to have more conversations about guns, not fewer.
Oregon Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, entered into the fray when he drafted the Oregon Extreme Risk Protection Order law. A combat veteran himself, he was motivated to take action to prevent suicides, especially among veterans. I commend him for working toward making our communities safer, and I hope the discussion continues. Oregon Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, also deserves credit for the many years she has spent working to start a conversation about gun regulation.
According to the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Americans live in gun-owning households, and at least 66 percent have lived in a household with a gun at some point in their life. Frighteningly, 44 percent of Americans say they know someone who has been shot, either intentionally or unintentionally. While there are significant policy differences among gun owners and non-gun owners, and even among gun owners themselves, the Pew research shows some areas of agreement. This includes favoring restrictions on accessing guns for individuals with mental illness and those on the federal no-fly list. The Las Vegas incident also led to greater discussion around semi-automatic weapons, including the ability to convert them to fully automatic.
We've never made progress by refusing to engage in tough debates. It's abundantly clear the issue of gun safety and control is fraught with challenges and deeply held beliefs. But this is not the time to shy away from those conversations. Too many lives are being impacted.
Would a law like Oregon's have made a difference in stopping the tragedy in Las Vegas? We will never know, and it is not likely to thwart every instance in which there is an individual bent on wreaking havoc and destruction. But, we should encourage leaders in Oregon and Washington, D.C., to build on the approach taken with the Oregon Extreme Risk Protection order and engage in finding common sense approaches to stem the violence.
In an ideal world, those conversations would be happening at the federal level. But in the meantime, I appreciate that Oregon lawmakers are willing to step up.