Oregon News

Oregon House passes controversial gun bill

By PETER WONG
Oregon Capital Bureau

The Oregon House split along party lines Tuesday, May 2, to approve a ban on so-called ghost guns made with untraceable parts.

The 35-24 vote sent House Bill 2005 to the Senate, which can only take an up-or-down vote on it. No Democrat voted against it, and no Republican voted for it. One Republican, James Hieb of Canby, was absent from the vote.

In addition to the ban, the bill restricts the types of firearms (to six) that can be obtained by people 18 to 21. The restrictions apply to handguns and semiautomatic rifles, although there is an exemption for those in law enforcement or the U.S. armed forces. It also would allow local governments to restrict possession of firearms in public buildings and grounds, extending an authority the Legislature granted in 2021 to the governing boards of school districts, community colleges and universities.

The bill was amended so that maximum penalties of $1,000 for a first offense, 364 days in jail and $6,250 for a second offense, and 10 years in prison and $250,000 for subsequent offenses apply initially only to the sale or transfer of firearms made with untraceable parts, such as those that come from 3D printers. After September 2024, however, the maximum penalties also will apply to possession of such firearms.

The bill was requested by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat who said this was her fourth attempt to secure its passage. She said in a statement after the vote:

“All guns must have serial numbers so they can be traced by law enforcement when used in crimes. And all guns must be able to be detected by security systems. I commend Speaker (Dan) Rayfield and the legislative sponsors for moving this important set of policies forward. This bill supports law enforcement in their investigative efforts and will help ensure that these deadly weapons are not readily available to those who cannot pass a background check.”

The debate was slightly more than three hours, half of the six-hour marathon on the previous day, when the House voted to add to Oregon’s 2017 law ensuring access to abortion and other reproductive and gender-affirming health care. Unlike that bill, which also passed largely along party lines, Republicans did not attempt to sidetrack House Bill 2005.

Speaking on opposing sides were Democratic Rep. Jason Kropf of Bend, a former deputy district attorney who leads the House Judiciary Committee, and Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson of Prineville.

Kropf’s voice choked up as he mentioned the Aug. 28, 2022, shootings at a Bend supermarket that resulted in two deaths, plus the 20-year-old shooter, among the Oregon mass shootings that go back to 1998 and the deaths at Thurston High School in Springfield.

“Two people in my town were murdered. The perpetrator was a 20-year-old. At the scene, the police recovered more than 100 shell casings,” Kropf said.

“I cannot believe I am saying this, but we were lucky to have only two people murdered that day. They also recovered an AR-15 (semiautomatic rifle) that at the time was lawfully purchased by the 20-year-old. With the passage of this bill, that would not be allowable any more.”

Kropf took issue with Republican critics who accused Democratic legislative majorities of ignoring crime. He said that fighting crime also involves funding key public services, such as law enforcement, schools, behavioral and physical health care and housing.

“There is not one simple solution to fostering public safety,” he said. “Public safety also comes from the services available and the related investments we make in those areas… However, to tackle gun violence, we need a couple of these actions with common-sense gun safety laws.”

He added: “I appreciate that even members who disagree with this bill that the Second Amendment is not absolute – and that reasonable regulations of firearms have been and are permitted under our state and federal constitutions.”

Breese-Iverson and other Republicans argued that the bill conflicts with the right to bear arms — particularly for people between ages 18 and 21 — and will invite lawsuits, similar to the ballot initiative that Oregon voters approved in 2022. Measure 114, which would require training before people can obtain permits for firearms purchases, has been placed on hold while a trial proceeds in Harney County Circuit Court.

“Under this bill, we are restricting possession of and access to firearms for legal adults, while also restricting access, sale and manufacture of firearms simply due to the nature of the product,” she said. “This is a clear infringement on the constitutional protections afforded to Oregonians and Americans… Why pass a law that violates the plain text of the Constitution? Why pass a law that has no historical or evidentiary support?”

“It is constitutionally suspect,” she added. “It is likely unconstitutional in its entirety and undoubtedly leading the state to immediate litigation – litigation that the state will lose because there is simply no jurisdiction for state regulation of a constitutionally protected right.”

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