Salem 2013: Gun control issues swirling

State lawmakers ponder what steps to take

Gun bills' fate cloudy in Salem

SALEM, Ore. - Gun control is a hot topic including in Salem where lawmakers are wrestling with what, if anything to do to curb gun violence. NewsChannel 21's Joe Burns was at the capitol Tuesday to hear what they had to say.

The governor gave his State of the State speech on Monday. The following two days were considered organizational days at the Capitol before the session officially begins on Feb. 4. And you can bet there are many items on lawmakers' agenda.

One of the big items for lawmakers nationwide: preventing gun violence.

Our legislators took on the topic during a question and answer session with reporters at the Capitol.

"We really need to make sure we are looking at mental health treatment and making sure that folks who need help get it," said Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

"The problem that we have is in our grief and our outrage at these horrific crimes that are committed, the only legislation we see is aimed at law-abiding citizens," said Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day. "That is a fail."

But will the issue be a priority for the 2013 assembly?

When House Speaker Tina Kotek was asked that question, she said schools and putting people back to work are more of a priority for her.

"I think we have to take on everything with the idea that we have some really top priorities," said Kotek. "And it's going to be up to Oregonians to come forward with proposals that actually work."

Democratic State Sen. Peter Courtney of Salem disagrees.

"You can't say we are going to prioritize, because then mental health will never, ever, ever get the funding it needs," Courtney said.

"I don't think anything should be off the table," said Gov. John Kitzhaber. "This is really about having a rational discussion about how we address something that has become a very, very serious issue in this nation."

Kitzhaber says he's in favor of more rigorous background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but does not support the idea of more guns in school.

"Even if you do all that, you really do need to invest in community mental health issues," Kitzhaber said. "We have those in the budget. They are going to be difficult, hard-fought to keep in the budget."

Ferrioli was asked if there are some things Democrats and Republicans might be able to agree on about the issue.

His response: background checks and doing more for mental health services.

"I believe that better screening and more available services at a younger age might prevent some of these activities," Ferrioli said.

This is a longer session than last year. Lawmakers can be in session as long as 160 days to finish their work.

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