Oregon Democrats gearing up to expand background checks

Story updated Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. EST, with comment from Erika Soto Lamb of Everytown For Gun Safety.

With Oregon Democrats taking over the legislature in the Nov. 4 midterm elections, expanded background checks on gun purchases is more likely in 2015, the Blue Mountain Eagle reported.

“I think the outlook for background checks is excellent,” Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said last month. “Two of the people who outspokenly opposed background checks, Sen. Betsy Close and Sen. Bruce Starr, were defeated by candidates who strongly support background checks … Now we have a working majority for background checks.”

A similar initiative spurred on by Michael Bloomberg passed in neighboring Washington state by almost 60 percent during the recent elections and gun control groups Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety — backed by the former New York City mayor and billionaire — have pledged to take the same initiative to other states.

The group recently submitted some 246,674 signatures for a background check initiative in Nevada and provided boots on the ground to “solidify a pro-background check majority in the Oregon State Senate,” said Everytown’s Erika Soto Lamb.

“Everytown and Moms invested in extensive voter education efforts including old-fashioned, door-to-door canvasses, to make sure voters knew that senators Betsy Close and Bruce Starr opposed criminal background checks on all gun sales,” Lamb told Guns.com Wednesday.

Oregon law already calls for background checks during the purchase of firearms from licensed dealers and at gun shows, but Democratic legislators want to see the process expanded to include private gun transfers. Several gun-related bills were shot down in 2013, the Eagle reported.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, is working on a new piece of legislation similar to a bill that was turned down during the previous session. In it, Prozanski hopes to resurrect the private transfer measure. The senator could also not be reached for comment.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is opposed to any legislation that expands background checks in Oregon, Jake McGuigan, the organization’s director of state affairs, told Guns.com Tuesday. McGuigan recently attended the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, which was held in Oregon this year.

“It burdens our retailers who are having to take on liability to conduct background checks on firearms that are not theirs, they’re not their inventory, and thus have to take on the risk and liability of doing those background checks,” McGuigan said. “If we just take a look at what passed in Washington state, it is a very confusing initiative.”

McGuigan also worries that adding to an already over-encumbered system could give Democrats the excuse they need to increase the state’s private party transfer fee from $10 as they’ve tried in the past.

Oregon is one of several “Point of Contact” states using its own system for background checks. McGuigan said the Oregon system is slow and shouldn’t be expanded when there’s a federal background check system the state could be using.

“Letting the state police conduct these background checks is really a waste of time, money and resources when you have the NIC system available,” McGuigan said. “The NIC system is already a taxpayer funded system, it’s already in place and it’s really … more efficient than these state-run background check systems.”