Senator Jeff Kruse: Explanation of gun bills

by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

I have received more email over two gun bills than any other legislation this Session. Both bills were voted on in the Senate yesterday. House Bill 4045 was actually a confidentiality of records bill and it passed overwhelmingly. Senate Bill 1594 would have banned certain people from having guns on school property and it failed. I voted for the first one and against the second one. This is another case in which what you might be hearing is not totally accurate and I would like to attempt an explanation.

Both bills deal with people who have concealed handgun licenses (CHL), and maybe we should be clear about who we are talking about. To get a CHL a person has to go through a background check and take a class to demonstrate a level of knowledge with a gun. If a person has a criminal record they will not get a license and if someone with a license commits a criminal act they will lose their license. Ultimately it is up to law enforcement to grant the license and I would suggest if they have any doubts the license will not be granted. In essence we are dealing with law abiding citizens.

House Bill 4045 is simply a bill dealing with public records. Some public records should be available to anyone. For example if someone wanted to know how I voted on a bill they should be able to discover the information easily and they can through the state website. However a lot of other records and information should not be as easy to get. In the case of CHL licenses the application includes a lot of personal information such as addresses and social security numbers. House Bill 4045 prohibits the release of such personal information unless a compelling reason can be demonstrated for having the information. This is a legal standard which will protect people from identity theft as well as other unwarranted uses of the information, but will still allow the legal system the access they require.

Senate Bill 1594 would have prohibited people with a CHL permit from having their gun on them when they were on any school property. This was presented as something we needed to do to keep kids safe. It ignores the facts. In the history of gun violence at schools there has never be even one incident where the act was committed by a person with a CHL permit; not one. There have, however, been several cases where the violence was prevented from being worse than it was by someone with a gun. Some say “we need to do something!” and in theory they could say they have by passing such a bill. But in reality all this bill would have done was put further restriction on lawful citizens without doing anything to address the problem. Another example of legislation designed to make some people look good without actually accomplishing anything. We have too much of that up here already.

But outside of the lack of merit in the bill, I have a major objection to the way the Legislative process was violated in this instance. While House Bill 4045 was fully vetted in the House Judiciary Committee and thoughtfully amended in the Senate the same cannot be said for Senate Bill 1594. Keep in mind the target date for the end of this Session was Feb. 29. This bill showed up for the first time and was first read on the morning of the 28th. It was then put on the calendar of the Senate Rules Committee for that afternoon and passed without a public hearing. In fact the Committee Chair said in essence they wouldn’t have time to hear all of the public testimony so they wouldn’t take any. They then asked the Senate Republicans to allow rule suspension so the bill could come to the floor for a vote on the 29th. This was such an overt violation of process we said no. We could not prevent the bill from coming up on March 1st, but were able to defeat it on the Senate floor.