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Senate panel advances gun bill with Measure 114 provisions

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By PETER WONG
Oregon Capital Bureau

An Oregon Senate committee has inserted the provisions of a voter-approved measure for gun regulation – a measure that is tied up in court – into pending legislation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, on a 3-2 vote Tuesday, April 4, sent the amended Senate Bill 348 to the Legislature’s joint budget committee. The bill would have died for the 2023 session if the Judiciary Committee had not moved it by a deadline.

Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, was asked about the move Monday. But he deferred responses to the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Floyd Prozanski of Eugene, who adjourned the committee without acting on the bill Monday.

Prozanski and Democratic Sens. Sara Gelser Blouin of Corvallis and James Manning Jr. of Eugene voted for the bill; Republicans Kim Thatcher of Keizer and Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls voted no.

Approved narrowly in the Nov. 8 election, Measure 114 proposes to require people to complete approved instruction before they can obtain permits to purchase firearms. They also would have to await completion of full criminal background checks – a firearms purchase can proceed now even if a check is incomplete after three business days – and ammunition magazines would be limited to 10 rounds.

The proposed amendments to Senate Bill 348 would incorporate all those changes, plus limit purchases of some firearms by people under age 21 to six types of rifles and shotguns specified in the bill. The bill also sets a maximum of $150 for someone to obtain a firearms-purchase permit, which is good for five years, and limits to $48 the share that goes to Oregon State Police for running the background check.

If the bill becomes law – legislative leaders have not clarified their intentions about whether they will move it forward – it would take effect immediately upon the signature of Gov. Tina Kotek. The emergency clause bars it from being referred to voters by petition. It could be challenged in the courts, but the bill specifies that a lawsuit must be filed in Marion County Circuit Court.

Opponents of Measure 114 sued in Harney County Circuit Court, where a trial is pending. They argue that the measure’s restrictions violate the Oregon Constitution’s right to bear arms. The Oregon Department of Justice sought but failed to move the dispute directly to the Oregon Supreme Court, which has not ruled out doing so in the future. Its unsigned order Feb. 10 left current law in place while the case is pending in circuit court.

Opponents of Measure 114 also filed a federal suit, but it was turned aside by a U.S. District Court judge in Portland.

The amended Senate Bill 348 is separate from a three-bill package that is making its way through the House Judiciary Committee. One measure would bar the assembly of so-called “ghost guns” from untraceable parts made with 3D printers. Another would raise the minimum age of firearms purchasers from 18 to 21, though it would still allow youths to have access to firearms in specified circumstances. A third measure would empower any local government to bar firearms from buildings and grounds, expanding a 2021 law that gave such authority to governing boards of school districts, community colleges and universities. That 2021 law also barred firearms from the state Capitol in Salem and the passenger terminal at Portland International Airport; passenger boarding and luggage handling areas are under federal law.

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