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Our Opinion: This common-sense bill lets local communities make up their own minds on banning weapons or not.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - During a Sunday, March 28, protest outside the state Capitol in Salem, a man pulled a handgun after protesters attacked his car. A bill that just passed the Senate and is heading to the House would ban firearms from inside state buildings, such as the Capitol. 

The Oregon Senate has passed a bill that would ban all firearms from state buildings and would authorize local governments to bar firearms from their buildings.

We urge the House to pass the bill as-is, and Gov. Kate Brown to sign it.

Senate Bill 554 is pretty common sense and was specifically written to allow communities to make up their own minds. Portland might want to ban firearms from city buildings, and Prineville might not. Under this bill, both could get their way.

That seems like exactly the sort of respectful, one-size-does-not-fit-all legislation that Republicans historically have clamored for. In a state split between urban, suburban and rural, as Oregon is, cookie-cutter regulations often are a poor fit. It is appropriate that this bill doesn't assume Scio would vote the same as Salem, which would vote the same as Stayton.

Despite that, the bill argued on the Senate floor, Thursday, March 25, drew three hours of debate from gun-rights advocates.

The bill would bar about 300,000 holders of Oregon Concealed Carry Permits from bringing their firearms into state buildings — including the Capitol — according to an article by Pamplin Media Group's Peter Wong. Some places, such as state courts, are already off-limits for Oregonians who are packing.

The bill would allow cities, counties, schools and other local governments to bar firearms from their buildings, although adjacent garages and parking lots would be excluded.

Violations would be considered a Class C felony, maximum penalties for which are a $125,000 fine and five years in prison, although they are unlikely to be levied on a first offense.

The bill also would raise initial fees for concealed-handgun licenses from $50 to $100, and renewals from $50 to $75.

In light of 2020, this sure seems like a common-sense idea. Backers, including Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat who represents portions of Southwest Portland and Washington County, referenced the armed invasions of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing — several men were arrested in an attempt to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — and the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. No one's talking about hypothetical threats anymore.

We would even go a bit further and would encourage the addition of metal detectors at the Oregon State Capitol. Lawmakers have been loath to do that, calling it "the people's building," and saying anything that dissuades people from conducting their business within those hallowed halls should be avoided.

In 2005, a knife-wielding man barged into the Oregon Senate minutes before the session began (the House was in session at the time). He was taken into custody without incident. Surprisingly to some, the talk in Salem didn't turn to metal detectors but to better services for the mentally ill. That was admirable at the time. But "at the time" was before domestic terrorists (using the FBI term) lay siege to the U.S. Capitol to overturn an election.

Given where we are today, metal detectors at the Capitol just make sense. We're not happy to be advocating for that change, but we are.

Senate Bill 554 isn't simply the right thing to do, it's the popular thing to do. A survey conducted by DHM Research of Portland indicated 59% support for such a measure, 31% opposition. While most of that support came from the Portland area and from Democrats, opposition was almost evenly split — with 49% support — outside the Willamette Valley.

The House should OK the bill, the governor should sign it, and communities should decide for themselves what steps they want to take to make the process of participatory government safer for all.


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