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Local lawmaker had proposals ready before recent shootings

A number of gun control measures were being prepared for the 2013 Oregon Legislature even before the shootings at the Clackamas Town Center and at a Connecticut elementary school.

After the brutal murder of 20 children and seven adults in Connecticut, gun control is guaranteed to be one of the hottest issues of the session.

“I really see the elementary school shooting as a tipping point,” says state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who has tried for years to pass gun control legislation in Salem without success. “When you have children shot 11 times by an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine, it makes people realize something has to change.”

Gun control opponents are preparing to fight the bills next session, however. Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, says the problem is not the design of certain guns, but the fact that “bad people do bad things.”

After a gunman killed two people, wounded another and then took his own life during the Dec. 11 Clackamas Town Center rampage, Burdick said she was already preparing two gun control measures. One would ban magazines for semiautomatic pistols and rifles that hold more than 10 rounds. The other would prevent holders of concealed carry permits from bringing their guns onto school property.

After the Dec. 11 shooting, Ceasefire Oregon said it would seek sponsors for a third gun control bill at the Dec. 14 special session of the Legislature. It would ban the sale of military-style assault rifles in Oregon, like the AR-15 used by the shopping mall killer just three days earlier.

“Some guns are just too dangerous to have in circulation,” says Katie Pool with Ceasefire Oregon, a gun control advocacy group.

But just as the Dec. 14 session was beginning, news broke of the mass shooting at the school in Newtown, Conn. Word quickly spread through the halls of the Capitol. Twelve legislators promised to sponsor the bill by the end of the day. Most represent Portland and nearby communities. Two are from districts that include Clackamas Town Center, state Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, and state Rep.-elect Jeff Reardon, D-Portland.

The bill also proposes a range of options to take existing assault rifles out of circulation, disable them or render them safer, Pool says.

A fight in Congress

Starrett insists that more laws will not prevent future killings. He noted that Norway has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world, but right-wing extremist Anders Breivik still killed 77 people there in July 2011, including 69 at a youth camp.

Instead, Starrett calls for arming teachers and teaching them how to shoot to prevent future school killings.

“I know instructors all over the state who are prepared to work with teachers for free,” Starrett says.

Burdick strongly disagrees.

“The National Rifle Association has argued for years that the answer is to arm more people,” she says. “Well, we’ve tried that, and all we’ve gotten is more mass murders and more death in the streets. We’ve got to take a different approach.”

Congress may preempt any action by the 2013 Oregon Legislature, however. President Obama has announced he will introduce legislation in January.

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