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Gun bill draws a crowd during public hearing


Government — Sentate Bill 1551 would require background checks for private gun sales, support split

SALEM — Hearing Room 50 was packed Thursday morning with opponents and supporters awaiting their two-minute slots to express their opinion during a public hearing concerning Senate Bill 1551 — which would require a criminal background check on private gun sales.

During the three-hour hearing, 42 people gave testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). Twenty speakers voiced their support for the legislation and 22 were opposed.

Many of those in opposition quoted the Second Amendment, referring to their right to bear arms. Others voiced concerns that despite assurance, the bill is really the state’s attempt to register guns. Those in favor asked the Senate to close the loophole that allows private gun sales without a background check, including a representative from Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“I’m here today to tell you to close the background check loophole,” Jenn Lynch, with MDAGS, said. “To the moms out there who are more afraid that a background check bill means creating a registry of gun owners that criminals would use to break into their homes and steal their family’s handguns, I beg you to understand the facts of this law we’ve heard today … It’s time to stop making policy based on imaginary threats of gun confiscation.”

Alan King, former St. Helens school board chairman quoted Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia, “Like most rights the Second Amendment is not unlimited. We need to quit arguing about people or guns,” King said. “People who should not have guns kill people.”

Representatives from the Oregon Pediatric Society and the Oregon Public Health Association voiced their support of the bill.

“As a nurse I’ve seen the impact of gun violence,” said Jessica Quarles, OPHA representative. “Let’s remember that gun safety is not solely about rights and responsibility, but it’s also an important public health issue. We can and we must do more.”

Many opposed were also concerned with enforcement. Michael Strickland asked the committee how the bill will physically stop criminals from “making a firearms deal in a dark alley without a background check.” Strickland said that by requiring a background check, the bill is requiring him to prove his innocence.

Roxanne Ross, from Gresham, was concerned with a “slippery slope” when it came to her liberties.

“Sen. Prozanski, please do not accuse me of having a conspiracy theory mentality,” Ross said. “It’s just a small change, to change that part of the law (to keep track of names). It’s a slippery slope, please don’t put us on it.”

Prozanski closed testimony around 11 a.m. Feb. 6, with the Legislature closing at 1 p.m. due to the weather.

“Thank you to all who came forward to participate, I understand it is emotional for people on both sides,” Prozanski said.

SB 1551 is scheduled for a committee work session at 8 a.m. Wednesday.