Giving weapon to parishioner for safekeeping without a background check may have violated state law
It will be up to the Oregon State Police to decide whether to pursue allegations that the Rev. Jeremy Lucas violated state law last week by asking a parishioner to store the AR-15 assault rifle he won in a softball teams raffle.
Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson told The Review on Saturday that after an initial "query," the LOPD has passed complaints about Lucas to the OSP, which is responsible for deciding whether to conduct an investigation into accusations that the Oregon Firearms Safety Act was violated.
"I have discussed the matter with the Oregon State Police and am coordinating follow-up with that agency," Johnson said, adding that "neither the Lake Oswego Police Department nor the Oregon State Police can comment on ongoing queries of this nature."
The allegations came to light on Friday after Lucas, who passed a background check at a local gun shop before taking possession of the AR-15, told the Washington Post that he and his wife then drove it to the home of a parishioner, a responsible gun owner, Lucas said, who offered to keep the rifle locked up in a gun safe until the pastor is ready to destroy it.
For that transfer of possession to be legal under Oregon law, the Christ Church Episcopal parishioner should have undergone a background check at a licensed gun dealer while Lucas was present. If that did not happen, Lucas may have committed a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $6,250 and as much as a year in jail.
Organizations that opposed the law during deliberations last year quickly took note, including the Oregon Firearms Federation. OFF Executive Director Kevin Starrett sent an email to the OSP, the Lake Oswego Police Department and 30 state lawmakers, pointing out Lucas's apparent violation of the law and asking for an investigation.
"If the pastor is prosecuted, it will demonstrate the idiocy of the law and the people who passed it," Starrett told The Review on Wednesday. "If the pastor is not prosecuted, it will demonstrate that anti-gun liberals are above the law and it was only intended to hurt the average gun owner, against whom it could be selectively enforced."
Conservative talk-show host Lars Larson also weighed in with an email to Lake Oswego City Council members.
"Sounds like a 'straw' purchase to me," Larson wrote.
Johnson, who testified in support of the new gun law in Salem last year, said it was up to the Oregon State Police to decide whether to conduct its own investigation or defer to another agency. On Tuesday, OSP spokesman Capt. Bill Fugate told The Review that the case was still in its early stages, and the Clackamas County District Attorneys Office said it wont decide whether to pursue criminal charges until it receives the results of an OSP investigation.
Six troopers stationed around the state investigate weapons transfers for the OSP, according to Fugate, who said a decision could be reached in the case as soon as Friday.
Lucas spent $3,000 from a church discretionary fund and member donations to buy 150 raffle tickets in the District 2 Big League Softball Team raffle. At the time, he said he had two goals: to help the girls team get to a California tournament and to take the weapon out of circulation.
Lucas won, and he told The Review last week that he plans to transform the assault rifle into a piece or pieces of art.
Its a small, symbolic act, he said. There are millions of guns, I know that. But this gun will never be used to kill kids in schools, kill people in a movie theater, kill people at an office party or at any other place of mass shootings. This gun will never be found by a child who accidently shoots a friend. ... It will never be stolen and used to commit a crime or used to threaten a family in a domestic violence situation.
"If I had the chance for $3,000 to keep any of these things from happening even one time Id do it again in a second, he said.
On Monday, he said he was surprised to learn of the investigation.
I will cooperate with any investigation that the Oregon State Police wants to have, he told The Review. Anything that furthers the conversation about our gun laws in the state of Oregon, Im happy that that would happen.