by Sen. Doug Whitsett
More than a dozen bills relating to firearms were introduced during the recently concluded 77th Legislative Assembly. Most of those bills would have, in some way, impinged upon our second amendment right to own and bear firearms.
A few of the more aggressive bills included:
• House Bill 3200 that would have created the crime of unlawful possession or transfer of an assault weapon or large capacity magazine, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
• House Bill 3413 that would have created the crime of endangering a minor, by allowing the minor access to a fire arm, punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $6,250, or both.
• SB 347 that would have allowed each school district to establish their own rules regarding the right to carry a licensed concealed weapon on school property. Violation of the law would have constituted criminal trespass, resulting in penalties of up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $6,250, or both. This bill would also have preempted the current law that only allows the legislative body to create laws regulating firearms.
• SB 699 that would have restricted the right to carry a concealed weapon in the capitol building by most licensed people without the written permission of the legislative administration.
• SB 700 that would have required completion of a background check, before any firearm could be transferred between private parties. Failure to complete the background check could have resulted in penalties up to 5 years in prison, fines up to $125,000, or both.
• SB 758 that would have required the owner of a firearm to carry specific liability insurance on each firearm in their possession. It also made it a crime to transfer a firearm to another person unless that individual carried liability insurance on the weapon. Failure to maintain liability insurance on each firearm would have resulted in fines of up to $10,000 per firearm.
• SB 796 that would have required completion of a concealed handgun course, including a live fire test, before a concealed handgun license could be issued. It is unclear why our legislature should focus its attention on increasing the requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit. It seems that no one can remember the last time that an Oregon handgun licensee committed a crime with a firearm.
Each of these bills, except HB 3413, had an emergency clause attached. The only reason for the emergency clause would have been to prevent the bill from being referred to the people to decide.
None of these bills were enacted into Oregon law.
The primary reason that the bills did not pass was because the Senate Leadership knew that the combined 15 no votes of 14 Senate Republicans, and of Senator Betsy Johnson, would have defeated each of the bills on the Senate floor. For that reason, they were never allowed to come to the Senate floor for a vote.
From my perspective, that vote count is much too close for comfort. Your Legislative Assembly was within one vote of enacting each of those bills into Oregon law. It was within one vote of grossly impinging on our second amendment rights.
Unfortunately, too many people are simply unaware of the facts regarding the possession of guns, and the commission of gun related crimes. In fact, most families have been convinced by media reports that gun related crimes are on the increase in America.
That simply is not true!
Over the past twenty years, the number of homicides committed with a firearm in the United States has decreased by nearly 40 percent. The number of other crimes involving the use of a firearm has also plummeted, declining by nearly 70 percent. Unintended deaths by firearms have dropped by nearly 60 percent since 1993, and have decreased by more than 80 percent since 1929.
This dramatic decline in the number of crimes committed with firearms has occurred during the same time period when our national population has increased from 250 million to 315 million people.
During the same twenty years, more than 100 million guns have been sold to private citizens in the United States. Forty three percent of U.S homes now report that they possess one or more firearms. I would imagine that the gun owning percentage is actually much higher than reported, because many people who own firearms do not prefer to let anyone know that they have those weapons.
All indicators point to the fact that our society becomes safer as more responsible families own guns.
Nonetheless, gun violence is the third most often reported event by our news media. That rate of reporting is only surpassed by news reports on traffic and the weather. The media almost never reports the daily events where violence is prevented by an armed citizen. It is this constant media bias that is primarily responsible for people believing that gun violence is on the increase.
In my opinion, our most important right, as citizens of the United States, is our constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment right to own and bear firearms. Throughout recorded history, each and every would-be dictator and despot has first convinced the people to disarm, allegedly in order to make their society a safer and more peaceful place to live. Once they have given up their firearms they have been systematically stripped of all other human rights.
We must not allow glib-speaking politicians, and a complicit news media, to convince us that we are safer without firearms. We are not safer. We are defenseless.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls