This week’s hearing on HB 2791 was as illuminating as it was frustrating.
HB 2791 removes the Oregon State Police as the point of contact for gun purchase background checks. Under 2791, the State Police would be replaced by the National Instant Check System.
35 states contact the Feds directly for these checks and buyers pay no fee for the “service.” In Oregon, when a purchase is initiated, the dealer contacts the OSP who call NICS and then OSP charges a $10.00 fee.
In the last 6 months or so, gun dealers in Oregon have had serious difficulty conducting these checks due to long delays when attempting to contact OSP. Even after finally getting an operator on the phone, the wait times can be onerous. The incidence of “pended” or delayed approvals has spiked as well. Many people have reported that they could make a purchase one day and be delayed the next. People with long histories of problem-free gun buys, have suddenly faced delays, sometimes for months.
HB 2791 would solve this problem by removing the middleman and simply going directly to the NICS system where no similar problems have been reported. In fact, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun dealers, has informed us that NICS has an excellent track record of rapid approvals and the only states having problems are ones which, like Oregon, use local “points of contact.”
At the hearing, Representative Greg Smith (who did an excellent job) questioned the State Police ID Unit Director who testified that gun purchase background checks subsidized many other types of checks that OSP conducts for free.
The Director, David Yandell, also testified that the ID Unit was experiencing difficulties completing background checks, but hoped things would improve. He noted that the unit plans to soon have an electronic check system that would allow dealers to conduct the checks themselves online. He also testified that even if this “new and improved” system became functional, reducing the need for staff time, that it was their intention to still seek the higher fee per check that they have requested. The current fee is $10.00. The State Police want to almost triple that to $26.00.
As expected, “Cease fire Oregon” came to oppose the bill with borderline hysterical testimony and invented statistics. More interestingly, a representative for the public employees unions came to oppose the bill on the grounds that several union jobs would be lost if the Feds took over the checks. Her position was that this bill would devastate Oregon’s economy because a handful of state workers would not longer be able to pay taxes after losing their jobs.
This is a fascinating premise. By her reasoning, Oregon could solve all its economic problems by hiring everyone in the state. Those people would then pay taxes and Oregon would be flush.
The magnitude of economic illiteracy out there is staggering.
Oddly, the public employees representative did not question whether the new “electronic” check would cost any jobs. None of the committee members asked about that either.
Senator Rod Monroe seemed primarily interested in not losing any state jobs, but most committee members appeared to get the point that Oregonians should not be paying twice for the same “service,” a process they never asked for which is being provided so poorly.
Now the bad news. The hearing was only one step. The bill cannot move without a “work session” and we have been reliably informed that the Democrats will be resisting such action. Apparently, saving millions of dollars of taxpayer money and endless headaches is less important than losing a single public employee job. So there is strong reason to suspect that the leadership in the Senate Democrat Caucus will be doing what they can (which is a lot) to stop progress on this bill. It’s by no means dead, but it is clearly in the cross hairs of the Democrat Leadership. By simply taking no further action on the bill, it will die, you will continue to face hassles and expense at the hands of the OSP, and “no one” will be to blame because no one had to vote.
Over in Senate Judiciary, Senator Floyd Prozanski, with the full support of Senate President Peter Courtney, is continuing to hold up any progress on House Bills 2787, 2792 and 2797. If he has not chosen a date to have work sessions on these bills by Monday, May 23rd, they will all be dead unless some legislator steps up and moves that they be removed from his committee. So time is running out.
Based on previous testimony and Prozanski’s own comments, we are confident that the Senator will make some attempt to turn one of these good bills into a Frankenstein monster of an anti-gun bill. Almost certainly it will be HB 2797 which only seeks to clarify firearms carry on motorcycles, snowmobiles and ATV’s. Expect this bill to be stuffed with language to ban guns on any school property along with lots of potential other amendments. Prozanski also wanted to change the rules about the restoration of felons’ gun rights. Having failed to make his own bill go anywhere, he could well add that language to any gut-and-stuff amendments to HB 2797.
We believe that it is unlikely (but by no means impossible) that Prozanski can pass a “no guns in schools” bill, however what he can do, and clearly is trying to do, is torpedo every bill that can in any way be perceived as “pro-gun.” In the case of HB 2797 this is particularly troubling. All that bill does is fix a legislative screw-up from 2009. It merely provides guidance so people can avoid running afoul of the law. So Prozanski and Courtney’s actions here are particularly reprehensible.
No doubt both will be cheered by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to further eviscerate the US Constitution.