The first public hearing surrounding a package of firearms bills supported by House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, and the Oregon Attorney General is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
The three bills would ban ghost guns, raise the age of purchase and possession, and allow local governments to adopt rules restricting firearms and concealed carry in their buildings.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the package.
Rayfield asked the group last year to work on measures to “improve the safety for Oregonians near and far,” Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, said.
“There are things that we can do in an approach that is reflective of the way Oregon approaches problems that could both respect the rights of gun owners and at the same time make a significant difference in our overall safety,” Evans said.
Three bills make up the package lawmakers are hoping to pass this session: House Bills 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Ghost guns bill
HB 2005 would ban the sale, manufacturing or importing of ghost guns — specifically, undetectable and untraceable firearms.
These firearms are defined in the bill as homemade guns including 3D printed, made of nonmetal substances, without serial numbers, and guns that after the removal of grips, stocks and magazines are not as detectable by a walk-through metal detector or X-ray scanner.
Under the bill, people convicted of possession of an undetectable firearm would face a misdemeanor on the first offense, which carries up to 364 days in jail, a $6,250 fine, or both. If convicted of a second offense or more, a person could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Ghost guns have emerged “as a weapon of choice for violent criminals, gun traffickers, dangerous extremists and generally people who are legally prohibited from buying firearms,” Rep. Dacia Grayber, D-Tigard, said.
It’s an issue Rosenblum said she remains passionate about and has been working on for the past four legislative sessions. Rosenblum said data is sparse in Oregon but said in California, up to 50% of crimes being committed in the state with guns are committed with ghost guns.
An investigation in 2019 from The Trace found that 30% of all guns recovered by agents in the state at the time were unserialized. In 2020, the LAPD reported recovering 1,921 ghost guns in 2021 compared to 813 ghost guns recovered in 2020. In San Francisco, nearly half of the firearms recovered in homicide cases in 2020 were ghost guns according to police.
“They pose a real threat to Oregonians,” Rosenblum said. “We believe that this law will save lives and I look forward to finally, after four long sessions, getting this bill across the finish line.”
Regulation of the sale and manufacture of ghost guns exists in at least 11 states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.
Raising the age limit
HB 2006 would raise the age to purchase and possess specific guns to 21, expanding on a federal law that already bans the sales of handguns to people under 21.
The bill does allow exemptions for individuals aged 18-20 who possess firearms used for hunting, shooting at established public or private target ranges, and similar purposes.
A person who is at least 18 and would not otherwise be prohibited from possessing a gun could possess several firearms including a single-shot rifle; a double-barreled shotgun; or a repeating rifle that has a bolt, lever, pump, straight-pull or revolving action.
There are also proposed exemptions for individuals age 18-20 who are in the military or law enforcement.
Evans called the bill a “responsible approach to the problem.”
Six of nine of the deadliest shootings in the United States in recent years were committed by young people with firearms “designed for war,” Evans added. The New York Times reported on the pattern in detail in 2022. They looked at the shootings since 2018 and noted that in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; El Paso, Texas, Santa Fe, Texas, and Parkland, Florida, were committed by someone 21 or younger.
Only two of the 30 deadliest mass shootings from 1949 to 2017 involved gunmen younger than 21, according to the New York Times.
“I believe that now is the time for responsible gun owners to step up,” Evans said.
He spoke of his grandfather, who he described as an NRA member, dairy farmer and person who took joy in hunting. He also described him as the model of a responsible gun owner.
“A responsible gun owner, when he recognizes a problem, you solve it. You try to find the most reasonable approach, the most tailored approach, the most fair approach,” Evans said. “I believe that House Bill 2006 … is a responsible and reasonable step forward that will keep deadly firearms out of the hands of people who aren’t really prepared to have them.”
Under the bill, a person would also be prohibited from intentionally selling or transferring a firearm to someone under the age of 21.
Punishment for someone under 21 in possession of firearms or someone who transferred a firearm to someone under 21 would be a maximum of 364 days in jail, a $6,250 fine, or both.
States like Washington, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Florida, Delaware, Vermont, Maryland and Rhode Island have adopted policies to raise the minimum age for gun buyers to 21 for all firearms.
Guns in public buildings
The third bill, HB 2007, expands local control of gun restrictions.
The state Legislature gave local school districts authority to ban firearms on school grounds in 2021. Under HB 2007, locally-elected governments would be authorized to prohibit firearms and concealed carry in their facilities and grounds. This could include cities or counties.
The bill would not affect the possession of firearms outside of public buildings and adjacent grounds. Jurisdictions are also not required to adopt restrictions if they do not want to.
A person in possession of a firearm in a building or on grounds subject to restrictions would face a Class A misdemeanor conviction punishable by 364 days in jail, a $6,250 fine, or both.
“House Bill 2007 acknowledges and honors the unique differences in Oregon communities and Oregon values,” Rep. Lisa Reynolds, D-Washington County, said.
At least 32 school boards prohibit guns on their campuses, Reynolds said. The state has nearly 200 districts. Eugene School District 4J and Salem-Keizer Public Schools are among those with bans.
“Local leaders across the state have shown this is something they and their communities value without forcing the same on communities who do not choose this restriction. The least we can do is untie their hands and allow them to make these decisions on behalf of their communities,” she added.
How to weigh in on the issue
An informational meeting is scheduled for the package at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Hearing Room D. The meeting will also be viewable online.
Public testimony for all three bills at once will be heard from 5-8 p.m. Written testimony can be submitted online.
Dianne Lugo covers the Oregon Legislature and equity issues. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DianneLugo.
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