Oregon background check passes legislature, heads to signature

Gov. Kate Brown (D) has pledged to sign a bill expanding background checks to most gun transfers sent to her by the Oregon legislature this week. (Photo: AP/Don Foyle)

Gov. Kate Brown (D) has pledged to sign a bill expanding background checks to most gun transfers sent to her by the Oregon legislature this week. (Photo: AP/Don Foyle)

Oregon is set to become the eighth state that mandates Brady-style background checks on virtually all gun transfers as a bill that passed the state house Monday heads to the ready pen of Gov. Kate Brown.

The measure, which passed the Senate on an earlier 17-13 party line vote and has seen much public debate, squeaked through the House by a 32-28 vote with Democrats carrying the day.

“Background checks are the most systematic way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Rep. Dan Rayfield, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The state’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, spoke with Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, a main sponsor of the legislation, who advised Brown was ready to sign it into law.

“She said she was thankful the bill be coming to her,” Prozanski said.

The proposal, SB 941, will require that all private gun sales take place through licensed firearms dealers who would perform background checks. There are some exceptions for family transfers, law enforcement, and – in some cases – inherited firearms.

Those who conduct a transfer without a background check and federal paperwork would risk a Class A misdemeanor for their first offense, which could lead to up to a year in jail and fines of up to $6,250. Subsequent violations would be a felony that could earn the violator up to five years in state prison.

A fiscal analysis of the legislation cites that the Oregon State Police will need a funding increase of $118,186 to add full time employees to help conduct an expected increase in background checks. The OSP anticipates an additional 20,000 private party background checks are likely to occur per year.

House Republicans, who tried but failed to gain enough votes from across the aisle to block the measure, advised that the bill only targets otherwise law abiding gun owners and will have little, if any, effect on arming criminals.

“Senate Bill 941, worse than doing nothing, gives false hope, because it represents to people that felons are not going to get guns. And colleagues, I think we all know that’s not true. They are going to get them one way or another,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane said.

Gun control groups to include former U.S. Rep. Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown and Moms Demand Action were quick to celebrate.

“Today the legislature put the safety of Oregonians ahead of the interests of the gun lobby and closed the loophole that made it easy for dangerous people to get guns in our state – this is a resounding victory for gun sense,” said Anneliese Davis with the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action in a statement.

Second Amendment advocates, comparing the loss to the recent voter referendum in neighboring Washington state last November, warned the move in Oregon could signal a shift in strategy for the gun control groups.

“Last year when we were fighting I-594 here in Washington there were many people in Oregon that stated flat out that it could not happen to them there. Now here we are a year later and SB-941 is headed to the Governor for a signature,” Alan Gottlieb, the Chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told Guns.com Monday.

“In Oregon the I-594 equivalent was even easier to pass than it was here in Washington and it cost them much less to do. Here the legislature refused to take it up so it went to a vote of the people costing them millions,” Gottlieb said.

The gun rights advocate pointed out that every election is important, as a campaigned backed by Bloomberg group last year removed two incumbent state senators in Oregon, replacing them with candidates backed for their stand on gun control. Without the votes of those freshmen lawmakers, SB 941 likely would never had made it out of the senate.

“My point here is that many people are apathetic to these laws when they are not in their own states. We must stop this apathy and fight it everywhere. If we do not then one state at a time we will lose and no matter how immune we think we are the reality is that we are not,” Gottlieb said.

Following Gov. Brown’s expected signature, Oregon will become the eighth state that mandates Brady checks for most private gun sales, five of which have adopted the practice since 2012.

“We said we would go toe-to-toe with the gun lobby in statehouses across the country – and today’s victory in Oregon, as well as the significant defeats of guns-in-schools and permitless carry bills in a number of states are proof positive of how we’re doing what we said we would do — and we’re winning,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, in a statement.

Meanwhile, an event to help recall state Sen. Chuck Riley, who was elected with the financial support of Everytown last fall, is scheduled for Tuesday.