Oregon expanded gun background check law takes effect

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

One of the most controversial bills enacted during the Oregon Legislative Assembly’s 2015 regular session was Senate Bill 941. It was passed by both legislative chambers on party-line votes and signed into law by Governor Kate Brown. It went into effect on Sunday, August 9.

The new law requires a criminal background check to be performed by a third-party licensed gun dealer prior to most private firearm transfers. Both the person transferring the gun, and the person receiving the gun, must appear in person, before the gun dealer, and must bring each firearm to be transferred with them.

I strongly believe that SB 941 is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our Second Amendment right to own and bear firearms. Moreover, it imposes significant restrictions on the ownership of firearms by law-abiding citizen while doing virtually nothing to restrict the illegal sale or possession of weapons.

Many Oregonians who own firearms may now be “on the edge” of becoming felons. Those of us who strongly believe that gun-control laws are unconstitutional must choose to either obey the law or to commit a felony.

According to the law, “transfer” means the sale, lease, loan, gift, lending or any “change of custody” of a firearm. This law generally does not apply to the “transfer of possession or ownership” of firearms among immediate family members.

A transfer made for the purpose of preventing imminent death or injury is also exempt from the background check requirements. But, absurdly, that transfer of possession is only exempt during the time while the threat is “imminently present.”

For instance, the threat may be imminent only after your home is invaded, or your neighbor’s wife or children have already been assaulted.

The transfer of a firearm, under this bill, means the delivery of the weapon from one person to another person, including, “but not limited to,” the sale, gift, loan or lease of the firearm. The “not limited to” phrase includes most transfers of the possession of a firearm.

SB 941 exempts transfers of possession that occur at a shooting range or gallery, or during a hunting, trapping or target shooting event. But the exemption is only valid when both persons are in the immediate presence of the firearm.

The law also does not apply while a firearm is being repaired or modified at a licensed gun shop.

However, the law does apply when gun owners leave their weapons with a friend or neighbor for safekeeping. According to Legislative Counsel, the team of attorneys that works for the Legislature and drafts the state’s laws, in order to obey this law, a gun owner is required to appear with their guns before a licensed gun dealer, along with their friend or neighbor, to obtain a criminal background check on the friend or neighbor, for each of the firearms.

Further, to comply with the law, in order to take possession of their own weapons upon returning home, the gun owner must “once again” appear before a licensed gun dealer, with their friend or neighbor, with all of the weapons, to obtain a criminal background check on the gun owner, for each of the weapons.

Failure to comply with the law is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,250 for each firearm illegally transferred.

A second offense is a Class B felony. It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both, for each firearm illegal transferred.

The Democrat majority had the temerity to affix an emergency clause to the bill. That clause effectively prohibited Oregon citizens from exercising their constitutional right to refer the new law to the vote of the people.

When SB 941 was being debated in the Legislature, local elected officials from two-thirds of Oregon’s counties opposed it. Some testified against the proposal in committee.  Many local governing bodies have passed resolutions or ordinances in strong support of their constituents’ Second Amendment rights. Multiple sheriffs throughout the state have stated publicly that it will be difficult to enforce the new law.

Questions about the bill’s lack of enforceability are now being raised in the news media. Some are expressing doubt whether this bill can be enforced without requiring the mandatory registration of all firearms. I share the concern that gun registration may be the next step in the anti-gun agenda.

In this recently published opinion piece, editors at the Albany Democrat-Herald newspaper predict the law will be “widely ignored.” It states that “no one knows for sure how many of these private transactions occur each year in Oregon” and because of that, “it will be nearly impossible to gauge the effectiveness of the law.” The editorial goes on to state that SB 941 “seems extremely unlikely” to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

One of the bill’s chief sponsors, Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) has been quoted in press articles as admitting that the state has provided no funding for enforcement of the law’s new mandates. Another chief sponsor, Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) is undergoing an active effort to recall him from the Senate.

SB 941 does allow Oregon licensed gun dealers to charge a fee for providing the criminal background check service. Nevertheless, it appears that a preponderance of gun dealers in the state have expressed their intention to decline to provide the criminal background check service.

Unfortunately, all of this opposition does not change the reality that SB 941 is current Oregon law. The Progressive Liberal Democrat majority has made the private transfer of the possession of a firearm an Oregon felony, unless a criminal background check is performed by a licensed gun dealer.

It is worth noting that not a single Republican legislator voted in favor of SB 941. In fact, this egregious law was held back, for the past four years, by our coalition of 14 Republican Senators and Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose).

Voters chose to replace two members of our coalition in last November’s general election. The two new Senators are arguably among the most liberal of the progressive Democrats that control both chambers. Both voted in favor of this bill.

One of their campaigns were strongly supported by out-of-state anti-gun advocates such as former New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Contributions were received from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on October 16 for $10,000, with an additional $75,000 coming from Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund on October 30.

That same group is now paying for six figures’ worth of television ads in Eugene and Portland to promote the law.

Political reality matters, and the fact is that we no longer have the required 15 Senate votes to stop gun-control bills. The certain result is anti-firearm bills such as SB 941 making their way through the legislative process and become Oregon law.

Elections do have consequences. We must now live with the outcome of our most recent election and the actions of the 2015 Legislative Assembly, including the adoption of constitutionally questionable laws such as SB 941.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

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Posted by at 11:45 | Posted in 2nd Amendment, Gun Control, OR 78th Legislative Session | 17 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • NAFTA Refugee

    i suggest a signature gathering for a ballot. Specifically that Senators Ginny Burdick and Floyd Prozanski undergo a background check before entering a government building. Each and every time. Their constitutional malpractice has cost us all. Add every democratic member who voted for SB 941 including Governor Kate Brown. She also needs recalled.

    • redbean

      Nullification, not political action, may be more effective.

      • Eric Blair

        That didn’t work out so well for South Carolina.

        • redbean

          It seems to be working today for sanctuary cities all across the land.

          • TEEBONICUS

            Only because of a sympathetic socialist federal administration.

      • NAFTA Refugee

        Go on.

        • redbean

          By saying nullification may be more effective than political action, I took creative license to broaden the term beyond legislative acts to the change in mindset that occurs when we realize government relies on our consent.

          Alcohol prohibition was undermined because people routinely ignored it. Marijuana prohibition was likewise weakened. Compulsory education was successfully challenged by the conscientious objection of a diverse cross-section of parents, from religious dissenters to philosophical opponents of industrial schooling. Withholding consent fosters trickle-up legislative change.

          Of course, the more commonly understood definition is the nullification by state legislatures of unconstitutional federal overreach, e.g. the ACA and gun control. Oregon is out of step with the rest of the country in this regard.

  • redbean

    Does anyone know if the Dims fixed the marijuana-user loophole in the final version of the bill? If not, then I guess Oregon progs believe reefer madness is a reason for giving up one’s constitutional right to bear arms.

    As described by NW Spotlight on OC 4/11/15:

    “SB 941 closes marijuana-user gun purchase loophole.”

    “Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) & Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) are
    pushing a bill that will close a loophole for Oregon marijuana users
    looking to buy firearms.”

    “The bill, SB 941, will expand background checks required for most personal sales of firearms. The bill requires people selling a gun to go to a gun dealer and request a background check on the person they want to sell the gun to. As part of that background check, the person wanting to buy the gun will fill out ATF Form 4473.”

    “Question 11.e in Section A asks “Are you an unlawful user
    of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic
    drug, or any other controlled substance?”

    “If the person wanting to buy the gun is a marijuana user and answers “Yes”, they will be prohibited from buying the gun.”

    “From the ATF Form 4473: “I understand that a person who answers ‘yes’ to any of the questions 11.b. through 11.k. is prohibited from purchasing or receiving a firearm.”

    “If the person wanting to buy the gun is a marijuana user and answers “No”, they will be committing a Federal felony.”

    “From the ATF Form 4473: “I also understand that making any false oral or written statement, or exhibiting any false or misrepresented
    identification with respect to this transaction, is a crime punishable
    as a felony under Federal law, and may also violate State and/or local

    “While Oregon has legalized medical marijuana and now
    recreational use of marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level.
    At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug along with
    drugs like heroin and LSD. Anyone growing, selling or possessing
    marijuana is still committing a federal crime.”

    (Innocent citizen: “Why no, officer, I’m not an ‘unlawful user’ – it’s
    perfectly legal in Oregon.” Officer: “Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200! Go directly to Jail!”) This is exactly why nullification is the citizenry’s last defense – an unjust law is no law at all.

  • unemotional

    Control freaks are taking all the fun out of being a grown up. I think I’ll just keep on loaning, selling and buying my stuff to and from whomever I choose, regardless. Oops. I hope this thread isn’t being monitored by a regulating body.

    • Frankly Ivancie clearly now

      May and/or Bud Clark paddle you on toward Pretoria, predilection upper sums Uranus.

  • Myke

    Floyd Prozanski once proposed that ALL adults be required, under threat of law, to wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bike. My thought was that he should wear a helmet at all times. Lord knows, this joker could roll out of bed and hit his head on a night stand.

    • .

      or a right stand. Write on Myke.!

  • Dick Winningstad

    I suggest ignoring this law like the Canadians did recently with their natioanl gun registration law that had to be recinded due to lack of participation by the people.

  • Dick Winningstad

    Oh, and then work to repeal this idiot law.


    Which is why, except in the most remote of circumstances, one must NEVER vote for a Democrat.

    And one should keep an eye on the Republicans, too.

    • conservatively speaking

      That’s for shire, independently speaking!

  • Nuts to Dem phallusys erected

    SB 941, a crock of baloney passed by Dems in cahoots with paradigm’s that matter squat to felons who conspire to commit felony’s unabated ….

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