Oregon House narrowly OKs gun legislation

Now goes to governor's desk; here's both sides

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon House narrowly approved and sent to Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday a measure supporters say is aimed at getting guns and other weapons away from those at risk of harming themselves or others, but foes call an infringement on gun rights that is "constitutionally tenuous."

First, here's the release in full from Oregon House Democrats:

House Votes to Reduce Gun Violence and Suicides

SB 719 creates Extreme Risk Protective Orders to limit access to guns by people in distress

SALEM – Senate Bill 719, which passed today by the Oregon House of Representatives, will keep deadly weapons out of the hands of Oregonians at risk of doing harm to themselves or others.

The legislation creates an Extreme Risk Protection Order for law enforcement and family members to petition the court to remove deadly weapons, including firearms, when an individual demonstrates distress. It passed 31-28.

House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-NW & SW Portland), a longtime champion of gun violence prevention, carried the legislation in the Oregon House.

“I believe this legislation strikes an important balance between ensuring individuals are able to maintain their rights under the Constitution and keep those who seek to harm themselves or others from obtaining the thing that will allow them to do that easily,” Rep. Williamson said. “Too many Oregonians die as the result of suicide by a firearm. This legislation is another tool for families and law enforcement to use in saving lives.”

SB 719, which is similar to a law in Washington, would allow family and law enforcement officials to petition a court for an ERPO. The petitioner would have to provide clear and convincing evidence under oath, showing that an individual poses a risk to themselves or others. Once an order has been issued, the individual would have to surrender any deadly weapons they have within 24 hours. The individual has 30 days to request a hearing to rescind the order.

Filing an order under false pretenses is a Class A misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 719 now goes to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. 


And here's the Oregon House Republicans' take on the measure:

House passes constitutionally tenuous gun legislation amid bipartisan opposition

Salem, Ore. - Amid bipartisan opposition, House Democrats today advanced legislation that establishes a constitutionally tenuous legal process for allowing courts to compel an individual to surrender their firearms. House Republicans argued that SB 719 infringes on constitutionally protected self-defense rights, could put law enforcement officers in harm’s way by requiring them to remove firearms from individuals even if they have not been convicted of a crime, and ultimately fails to address the root causes of violence in Oregon communities.

“I do not begrudge the sponsors of this bill nor the spirit in which this legislation was brought forward, but there are several pieces of this bill that should give us pause,” said Representative Bill Post (R-Keizer). “SB 719 sets up a constitutionally tenuous process for stripping Oregonians of their rights and puts the burden of enforcement on the backs of our already strained law enforcement community. If we want to reduce violence in our communities, we need to get serious about investing in mental health programs and ensuring that Oregonians have access to the care they desperately need.”

SB 719 creates what sponsors of the legislation have dubbed an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) The process for obtaining an ERPO as outlined by the bill allows an individual who either lives with, or is in an intimate relationship with, a person who they believe may be at risk of harming themselves or others to seek a court order to have the potentially at risk person’s firearms and any items that could qualify as dangerous weapons removed from them. An ERPO can be requested by an individual in secret and does not provide an opportunity for an individual to contest the order until after it has already been issued. Courts may consider an overly broad list of factors when determining whether to issue an ERPO, including convictions for nonviolent crimes and subjective statements.

“The proponents of SB 719 have sought to protect Oregonians from domestic- and self-inflicted violence -- a goal we all share,” said Representative David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford). “But the process established under this bill has some significant flaws that could allow for abuse of the system and result in innocent Oregonians having their rights compromised without just cause. We have an obligation to preserve and protect the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, including the right to bear arms, and I believe this bill runs the risk of coming into conflict with that obligation.”

In opposing the bill, Republicans argued that the best way to reduce violence in Oregon communities would be to invest in mental health services. They cited a study showing Oregon ranking as the worst in the U.S. for mental health, and called for policymakers to prioritize investments in mental health education and services. Lawmakers have done little to expand mental health treatment this session, including failing to advance SB 1054, which would have led to expanded care options for veterans.

SB 719 passed the House on a 31-28 vote, with several Democrats joining Republicans in opposition to the bill. The bill now heads to Governor Brown’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

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