Oregon doesn’t need to expand gun background checks


by Dan Lucas

Here are the reasons for opposing an expansion of Oregon’s background checks for gun purchases & transfers:

  1. Oregon already has some of the most restrictive requirements in the U.S. for gun background checks.
  2. The proposed background check expansion wouldn’t have prevented the recent tragedies in Clackamas and Connecticut.
  3. The proposed background check expansion would create more government records, and government has demonstrated that it’s not a good steward of our private information – especially gun owners’ private information.
  4. Oregon is not prosecuting criminals who try to buy guns – which dramatically reduces the purpose and value of background checks.
  5. Oregon is not submitting mental health records like they should be – the kind that could have prevented the Virginia Tech shooting – where the shooter used a gun he bought after passing a background check, despite having been declared mentally ill 2 years earlier. This also dramatically reduces the purpose and value of background checks. [see update below]
  6. There is a better, bipartisan solution: improving mental health treatment in Oregon.

One of the four gun bills from the last Oregon Legislative session is resurfacing, and it’s being pushed by Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). The bill is the so called “universal background check” which would expand background checks to all private gun sales and transfers, except between family members. Oregon currently requires background checks for purchases at gun dealers and at gun shows — already making Oregon one of the most restrictive states.

The renewed interest in pushing for more gun control came after the tragedies at Clackamas Town Center and Newtown, Connecticut. This latest attempt is still being driven by those tragedies. Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) recently told The Oregonian that “having a vote on the bill would address the growing frustration among gun-control advocates about a lack of action in the Legislature following mass shootings in Clackamas and Connecticut.”

Unfortunately, expanded background checks wouldn’t have prevented either of those tragedies. It’s one of the main reasons the bill failed last year. In both the Clackamas and Connecticut tragedies, the perpetrators took the guns from someone else. But both perpetrators did have mental health issues.

There are other reasons to oppose an expansion of Oregon’s background checks. Every background check creates a record with a government agency, and government has shown that it is not a good steward of data, especially gun owner’s private information. So beyond the massive leaks of government data to WikiLeaks and by Edward Snowden, there are specific releases of gun owners’ private information. Those releases include a New York paper publishing gun owners’ private information online, including maps to their houses, and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office releasing their entire database of CHL holders to the Oregonian in 2007. Some of the people whose personal information was released were crime victims seeking to protect themselves, victims of domestic abuse, and law enforcement and district attorneys and their families.

Another reason to oppose expanding background checks is that it would further burden law-abiding citizens while failing to close gaping existing problems with the very people background checks are supposed to catch: criminals and people with mental health problems.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that in 2010, 2,400 (1.4%) of the 168,000 applications for firearm transfers or permits in Oregon were denied. Of the 2,400 applications denied, only 90 applicants were arrested. It is illegal for people with criminal records to purchase a gun, so why aren’t these illegal attempted purchases being prosecuted?

Regarding the gaping hole in screening for people with mental health problems, an NBC article from last April points out “Just seven states account for 98 percent of the names prohibited for mental illness, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, meaning most states are in there barely, if at all. In one oft-cited example, Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho passed a background check before obtaining a gun and killing 32 people, despite having been declared mentally ill two years before.”

Oregon is one of those states that continue to ignore federal law by failing to forward mental health records to the national database. A 2011 article in The Oregonian reported that Oregon had submitted just three mental health records as of October of that year.  [see update below]

Sen. Prozanski’s proposed legislation is a solution in search of a problem. This expanded background check would not have prevented either of the recent tragedies that generated the impetus to do something, and it places additional burdens on law-abiding citizens. It would be far more productive to resume last session’s bipartisan work to enhance mental health treatment as the best way to prevent gun-related tragedies.

UPDATE (2/1/2014): A June 2013 Oregonian article provided newer information on how many mental health records Oregon has submitted to NICS: 30,000. Oregon is doing much better now. [h/t Penny Okamoto, Exec Dir of Ceasefire Oregon] The problem outlined in the 2013 NBC article still exists, though. 7 states account for 98% of the names prohibited for mental illness. That means that 43 states are not forwarding mental health records the way they should be.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in 2nd Amendment, Gun Control, Oregon Senate | 36 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Mark

    These crazy Dems have armed body guards but want to legislate us out of ever owning firearms. Fools.
    Cigs kill more than guns. Why don’t they outlaw them?
    Money. That is why. The two-faced fools.
    But, we get what we deserve for sending these morons to Salem to Polish the gold dome.

  • Jack Lord God

    I love the GInny Burdick quote in this.

    “having a vote on the bill would address the growing frustration among
    gun-control advocates about a lack of action in the Legislature
    following mass shootings in Clackamas and Connecticut.”

    Gee gun control advocates, I am sorry you are frustrated, However just because you are advocates and fans of a proven ineffective solution and general time waster does not mean you get to advance your ideas simply because its been some time since the last idiotic solution that popped into your head had a hearing.

    The articles main thrust – that government has proven its irresponsibility with keeping records is a good one. The last thing anyone wants is government creating more records on people.

    The final point about virtual non prosecution of denied purchases is also a good one. Anti second amendment folks generally run tail between their legs when this one is pointed out. But we all knew that was the case didn’t we? Gun control has never been about solving or preventing crime. Gun control is always about making it so difficult to get a gun that people give up and only the elites have them.

    Thanks but no thanks Sen. Prozanski. In the interest of a safer Oregon we all hope your bill goes no where.

    • guest

      Warning: Downing Prozacski with sloe Ginny Burdick can injurious to 2nd Amendment health.

      • Jack Lord God

        I seem to remember Boggle was a game where you shook dice and made words with the results. Never thought of trying to string entire sentences together. Hmmm, interesting.

        • guest

          can (be) injurious…sorry for the omission yet sure as shoot’n, the Dem fools in the Oregon Legislature ought be booted and hauled off to a location, preferably within a CONtainer outbound from US and placed under arrest existentially.

  • guest

    Enforcing existing gun laws should suffice, yet das nipple-EZ governmentiumal disarmamental groupie-insurgents vaunt you (who?) to ‘buy’ (folly) into der CONmit’n Bozo s’hitz’nanyways allegorazi loony-tunes repertoire!

    Ja, yet at first or fist, squint -essenitally review ‘tween the faux sublimes uff-der dour kraut’n dung-roles attending ‘filth’ columnNAZIs, inter dangled and harbored mit against US!

    Well NUTS, dammit! “Don’t let the fook;n ‘tards grind you down.”

    Kick ‘jackass’ this November and thereafter until what’s left of US restores what’s right and happy campers singing inherent appraisals, albeit what’s good attending our God founded Constitution, forevermore.

  • Jacob Eagleshield

    The only people afraid of expanded background checks probably have something to hide. Will better checking keep guns out of the hands of all who should not have them ? Of course not. But it can’t hurt,and does not infringe on anyone second amendment rights,if they are law abiding people. If there were expanded checks,that loon who shot Gabby Giffords,and killed an eight year old girl,among others,would not have been able to walk into a gun show and arm himself. What really gets me is how callous gun owners were after Tucson and Sandy hook.

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