Another gun regulation bill is headed for a legislative debate and vote, this time in the Oregon House.
House Bill 2510, approved Tuesday, March 30, by the House Health Care Committee, would require the storage of firearms with trigger or cable locks, in a locked container or in a gun room. An offense is a Class C violation, which carries a maximum fine of $500, unless someone under age 18 obtains access, in which case it is a Class A violation with a maximum fine of $2,000. No jail time is imposed for violations.
The committee vote was 6-4. All Democrats voted for it; all Republicans against it.
On March 25, the Oregon Senate voted 16-7 to approve a bill making state buildings — including the Capitol — off-limits to firearms carried by concealed-handgun licensees. Senate Bill 554, which went to the House, leaves it up to local governments to decide that question for their own buildings.
Oregon is among the states with no laws regulating gun storage, according to the pro-regulation Giffords Law Center. Laws in California and Washington apply to some aspects of storage.
When the House Health Care Committee heard the gun storage bill March 11, almost 400 pieces of testimony were submitted for and against House Bill 2510. Some people submitted more than one.
"We cannot gun-proof children," Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University, testified. "We must child-proof guns."
Between 1999 and 2019, he said, Oregon averaged 3.5 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people, compared with the national average of 2.3 per 100,000. For youths under 19 during the period, he said Oregon averaged 6.3 deaths per 100,000, compared with the national average of 5 per 100,000.
"Gun violence is one of the leading causes of death for people my age," Hope Williams, a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Oregon, said in a statement after the vote. "We want to feel safe at home and in our communities and that starts with securely storing firearms to prevent gun violence."
Students Demand Action, together with Moms Demand Action, constitute Everytown for Gun Safety.
"Even in a pandemic, our communities are continuing to endure gun violence everyday," Elizabeth Klein, a gun violence survivor and volunteer for the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action, said. "And, unintentional shootings and gun suicides have continued to rise over the past year. Secure storage is an effective and easy way to help prevent these tragedies.
But Oregon's gun-rights advocates staunchly opposed the bill.
"This bill will subject hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens with potential criminal and civil liability overnight for actions that are perfectly legal today," Paul Donheffner, legislative committee chairman for the Oregon Hunters Association, said in testimony to the committee.
Violations are not punishable by jail time.
Kevin Starrett is director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, which bills itself as a no-compromise group on gun rights. It even disparaged Republican lawmakers working on regulation of firearms sales at gun shows in 1999, a year after the group's founding. The bill did not pass, but voters approved a related initiative measure in 2000 by a 62% majority.
Starrett had harsher words for lawmakers during his committee testimony.
"Gun owners in Oregon have been remarkably well-behaved," he said. "But if you keep rewarding criminals and punishing the law-abiding, don't expect them to stay that way."
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