Trio explains push for gun control legislation
With mass shootings sending shock waves throughout the country for the better part of the past decade and gun suicides silently taking thousands of lives, advocates of gun control continue to push for new laws that they hope will decrease the rate of gun deaths.
During a Willamette Women Democrats meeting last week, three speakers — Penelope Spurr, a Lake Oswego High School student and co-founder of Students for Change; Ari Freilich of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; and Moms Demand Action representative Debbie Lindgren — talked about the state of gun reform in Oregon and some of the legislative remedies that have been proposed.
After the Parkland shooting in 2018, Spurr said, Students for Change worked with state Sen. Rob Wagner and state Rep. Andrea Salinas to craft House Bill 501, which would require people to obtain a permit to use a firearm, prevent those with criminal convictions and those who have violated a stalking or restraining order from getting a permit, and allow a sheriff to deny the application if they believe the applicant is a danger to themself or others.
The bill also would create requirements for firearm storage and reporting lost or stolen firearms, prohibit large-capacity magazines and regulate the amount of ammunition a person can obtain, among other requirements.
Wagner, who introduced Spurr at the meeting, said he and Salinas received death threats following the introduction of the legislation.
"The vitriol, the hatred, the death threats, the increased security presence at our houses, the Oregon State Police officers that now accompany us through the building, I wasn't expecting that," he said. "We will not back down from making sure our children feel protected and our communities feel safe."
After reading the names of the Parkland victims and then a passage by Mark Twain that references the horror firearms can inflict, Spurr encouraged the audience to show support for the legislation and for legislators to come around to the idea of passing the ambitious bill.
"What we're saying (to legislators who might not want to work with us) is that it's not radical. It's all sensible policy that's been established in other states, and the only reason it seems radical is because we're just combining it into one omnibus bill," Spurr said.
Spurr said she supports the legislation in part because she's tired of feeling afraid at school.
"I tell legislators that I care about gun violence because every time I walk into school, I fear that I might not come out," she said. "Every time I walk out off the classroom, I'm in a contained space and I look for places to hide. I look for textbooks to grab to defend myself. I think about where I'm facing relative to the door and if someone were to point a gun at me, where those bullets would hit, how I can adjust myself to make myself most likely to live."
Freilich said the Giffords Center, a policy organization, gave Oregon a C+ grade — which ranks it 14th out of 50 states — for its gun laws.
While the state does prevent gun access by some domestic abusers and stalkers, some people convicted of violent crimes and some with a history of mental illness, he said, Oregon could make a host of changes that could reduce gun-related deaths. Those changes include ensuring that those who are barred from buying a gun also must relinquish the guns they already have, requiring a safety test to acquire a gun, imposing ammunition limits and prohibiting the possession of firearms by those that have been convicted of a hate crime, among other ideas.
"Hate crimes unfortunately in today's political climate have been increasing," Freilich said. "We think it's important symbolically and substantively to disarm hate crime offenders."
Freilich also mentioned that guns account for just 5 percent of suicide attempts but 50 percent of suicide deaths, and that the majority of gun deaths are suicides.
"When someone in crisis reaches for a firearm, they are more than 40 times as likely to die than if they search for the two most common forms of suicide attempts," he said.
Finally, Lindgren also advocated for advancing gun relinquishment laws to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. Moms Demand Action is a grassroots organization that advocates for gun safety measures.
"We are working on domestic violence because we know that when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, women are five times more likely to be killed. So we're looking at what has worked in other states and applying them," she said. "In states that have applied that, gun homicides with intimate partners have gone down 14 percent."
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