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A national gun rights group is throwing its support behind recall efforts aimed at three Oregon lawmakers who were targeted in part because of support for a controversial gun sale background check measure.


Alan Gottlieb of Bellevue, Wash., chairman of Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said Friday that prospective recall petitions filed against state Reps. Val Hoyle of Eugene, Susan McLain of Forest Grove and state Sen. Chuck Riley of Hillsboro, were a good reminder “that gun owners are voters too.”

“We’re not going to campaign for or against a specific individual,” Gottlieb said. “But we do support the right of the citizens to remove from office anyone who acts to undermine their rights."

All three facing the prospective recall petitions are Democrats who have supported this session’s gun sale background check measure, Senate Bill 941. The bill closes a legal loophole and requires background checks on nearly all gun sales, even those between private parties.

The nonprofit Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms says it has about 650,000 members across the nation and helps grassroots gun rights activists in communities.

The petitions are similar to the 2013 gun-control fight in Colorado in which two Democrats lost their state Senate seats in a recall. Democrats regained the seats in the 2014 election, however.

Riley and McLain won close races in November 2014. Riley defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Bruce Starr by less than 300 votes. Hoyle won her district by a wide margin.

To put the issue on a ballot, recall supporters would have 90 days to gather about 3,000 signatures in the Lane County district, and about 6,000 signatures in the two Washington County districts.

All three legislators said they would continue to support "common sense legislation" despite the recall effort.

‘This gaping loophole’

Hoyle, McLain and Riley became the targets this week of separate recall petitions. Junction City gun storeowner Jason H. Thiesfeld filed a prospective petition April 14 to recall Hoyle, a Lane County Democrat representing House District 14, which includes West Eugene and Junction City. Benjamin J. Busch of Hillsboro filed separate prospective petitions April 15 to recall McLain, a Forest Grove Democrat representing House District 29, and Riley, a Hillsboro Democrat representing Senate District 15.

Hoyle was a chief sponsor of SB 941. McLain and Riley also signed on as sponsors of the bill.

Gun rights issues were only one part of the prospective recall petitions. Thiesfeld wrote that Hoyle deserved to be recalled because she has “consistently prioritized the needs of special interest groups and big campaign donors above the needs of working families in our community.”

Thiesfeld’s petition says Hoyle was “a lead sponsor of latest gun control bill, which puts burdensome restrictions on law-abiding citizens.”

In a statement released to the media, Hoyle said, "Closing the background check loophole on private gun sales is common sense. I want to be clear that I won’t be intimidated away from doing what I think is right.

"The recall is an important part of the democratic process and it’s his constitutional right to file the petition. But it’s important to note that I was re-elected by a 12-point margin. I’m confident that I have the support of the majority of the people in my district."

Busch’s petitions make similar claims about McLain and Riley. Busch wrote that McLain “broke her promise to make Washington County families her priority.” He wrote that Riley had a “radical agenda” and was “out of touch with working families.”

In a statement, McLain said she "ran for office to invest in our classrooms and to work on policies that protect the health and safety of our community. Since taking office in January, I’ve had the opportunity to work and vote on numerous bills that will improve the lives of all Oregonians. I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished since the start of the session.

"Unfortunately, a fringe group has started a recall effort against me over my support of a bill that will close the background checks loophole for private gun sales," McLain said. "I believe that this bill will save lives by ensuring that this gaping loophole isn’t used to put guns into the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and people with severe mental illness.

"I fully support the 2nd Amendment, and I believe that this is a common sense policy that will make our community safer while still protecting the rights of gun owners. Our community agrees: A recent poll shows that 87 percent of Oregonians support closing this loophole, including 83 percent of gun owners."

Riley said he has supported "common sense legislation to promote gun safety."

"I proudly cast a 'Yes' vote on SB 941 to close the loophole that allows felons, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness to get access to a gun," Riley said in a statement. "Common sense gun safety was a key issue in my campaign and I'm delivering on my promises to the voters. Extreme right-wing groups may not like the fact that I won, but I am doing exactly what I said I would do. I respect the right of citizens to exercise their beliefs in the democratic process. I am also confident that the vast majority of people in my district support gun safety, and that my vote for SB 941 is democracy in action."

Editor's Note: An early version of this article incorrectly listed the number of days recall supporters had to collect signatures. They have 90 days to collect signatures.

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