by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)
I am going to circle back to an issue that won’t go away, and that is guns. As a reminder, there were four gun bills sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate Rules Committee on a party line vote. This was done because there were not the votes in the Senate to pass any of them and the only way to keep them alive was to send them to Rules which is one of the few committees still open. At this point it appears SB 700; the background check bill seems to be the only one still in play. The votes are still not there and won’t be, but Senators Burdick and Prozanski will not give up. I have read in some blogs and other places that Senator Betsy Johnson has changed her mind and might vote for SB 700, and nothing could be further from the truth. Let me repeat that; Senator Johnson is still and will continue to be in opposition to all four bills. Anything you have heard to the contrary is completely false.
There has been, however, a change in the political landscape on this issue. There is a new player in the game and that is an organization called Mayors for Gun Control, which is financed by Michael Bloomberg who is the mayor of New York City. Yes, this is the same mayor who banned 44 ounce soft drinks in his city, which puts him in the category of those who think government should control all aspects of our life. It should also be pointed out he is very rich and can throw a lot of money around as he chooses. This group has already spent millions of dollars to get legislation passed in Nevada and has filed an initiative petition for universal background checks in Washington state. We expect they might be preparing to do so in Oregon as well.
Some of us in the Legislature take the oath we swore to uphold the Constitution seriously, and so the question becomes how we respond to this new player in the game. Many have said “we don’t need new gun laws; we just need to enforce the ones we have.” To that end we took a look at our background check system and what changes might be made to make it work better. I should point out that SB 700, as currently written is actually unworkable and is clearly there primarily for political reasons. Conversely we wanted to see if we could do something real.
Without getting too deep into the details of our proposal we were able, working with the Oregon State Police, to come up with a plan we think would make it easier for lawful people to acquire guns and also easier to identify those who should not have guns. We thought this was a win for both sides. At this point, because of the mess gun bills were in the Senate, I took the proposal to Speaker Kotek as a potential House bill. I do want to thank the Speaker for being willing to have the conversation, but at the end of the day the Mayor’s group would settle for nothing less than background checks on all private sales and so we had no bill. I find it interesting that the mayor of New York City is actually driving policy here in Oregon.
At the end of the day we will probably see SB 700 (potentially with an additional amendment nobody has seen) come to the Senate floor and be defeated. We had an opportunity to actually improve our system, but unfortunately the anti-gun politics have prevented that from happening.