Sollman, Prusak & Keny-Guyer: Gun storage bill will save lives
We want the gun violence to stop.
Suicides. Accidental deaths and injuries. School shootings. Mall shootings. Interpersonal violence. The impact of gun violence on our communities is severe, and it is preventable.
Each year, an average of 15 children and teens in our state die by suicide with a gun, a rate that is 34% higher than the national average.
The problem is getting worse. According to data recently released by the Oregon Health Authority, 82 teens killed themselves with a gun between 2013 and 2017 — a 52% increase over the previous five years. This is a public health crisis, and solutions are readily available to prevent it.
Guns are by far the most lethal means for self-harm. More than 85% of suicide attempts by gun end in death, while only 5% of people who attempt suicide by other means will die. As Dr. Ben Hoffman, pediatrician and medical director of the Oregon Health & Science University's Tom Sargent Safety Center testified, "The method used in this moment of crisis can mean the difference between life and death, and access to a gun is often that difference."
That's why we introduced House Bill 4005 this session. HB 4005 requires that a firearm be secured when the owner does not have it under control — a habit that responsible gun owners already practice.
The bill takes a public health approach by setting a standard for safe storage requirements, and then holding gun owners accountable with a fine if they don't secure their firearms. It requires that minors be supervised with firearms, and that lost or stolen firearms be reported to the police. Finally, the bill ensures that gun owners share in the responsibility for damages caused by their firearm if it falls into the wrong hands because it wasn't secured.
The bill was crafted in partnership with responsible Oregon gun owners who understand that with rights come responsibilities. The bill does not impose criminal penalties or prohibit the use of firearms. It doesn't say what kind of firearms a person can own.
The bill is aimed at changing the behavior of the minority of gun owners whose careless actions have led and may lead to the death and injury of others. It is protection for the teen considering suicide, the curious toddler, those experiencing interpersonal violence, and the potential victims of shootings in schools, malls, and other public spaces.
With this bill, we are asking Oregon firearm owners to take a simple action within their power that will prevent gun violence. It is going to take all of us to tackle this problem. Mental health professionals. Educators and social workers. Health care clinicians. Family and friends. And gun owners. It is also going to take Republican legislators coming back to work so we can pass this bill.
HB 4005 is the product of negotiation that took into account many of the concerns raised by rural members of the House, including making sure that secured firearms can still be stored in vehicles, and that a firearm can still be at the ready for personal protection in the home.
HB 4005 is waiting for action by the House of Representatives. It is waiting to save lives. Oregonians are waiting for us to take action to save their lives. We urge our Republican colleagues to come back to work and join us in supporting this bill.
Janeen Sollman, Rachel Prusak and Alissa Keny-Guyer are Democratic members of the Oregon House of Representatives. Sollman represents District 30, which includes Hillsboro and North Plains. Prusak represents Tualatin and West Linn in District 37. Keny-Guyer represents the Lents and Laurelhurst neighborhoods of Portland in District 46.
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