Oregon Governor Signs Bill to Expand Background Checks

   05.12.15

On Monday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 941, otherwise known as the Oregon Firearms Safety Act. SB 941 greatly expanded background checks on firearm transfers in the state, extending background checks to nearly all gun sales, including those done privately. The signing of the bill makes Oregon the eighth state to approve so-called “universal” background checks and marks the first time in nearly 14 years that the state has passed a significant gun control law.

“The Oregon Firearms Safety Act is an important step forward in the effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others whom the law has determined should not have them,” Governor Brown wrote on her official Facebook page following the signing. “The bill provides a common-sense approach to accomplishing that goal without interfering with the lawful right of citizens to bear arms.”

The bill was supported by gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which argued that expanded background checks would keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

“This is a huge victory that will save lives in Oregon by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people who will no longer be able to exploit the vast ‘Internet loophole’ to buy guns for cash in back alleys without a Brady background check. Lives will be saved as a result,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in a press release. “It shows the nation the kind of real progress we can make when elected leaders put the interests of the citizens ahead of the radical agenda of the corporate gun lobby.”

The law, which is effective immediately, does include several important exceptions. While SB 941 requires almost all private gun transactions to be subject to a background check, transfers between family members and for people who lend guns out for hunting or for target shooting are exempt. Penalties for violating the law can include up to one year’s imprisonment, a $6,250 fine, or both for the first offense. Subsequent offenses would incur much stiffer penalties.

Gun rights groups such as the NRA, which has been opposed to expanded background checks, say that the new law will only serve to burden law-abiding gun owners while doing little to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms.

“The vast majority of criminals get their guns through theft, the black market, straw purchases or from friends and family members,” NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen told The Oregonian.

The Oregon Republican Party also opposed the law, adding that it may have negative consequences for the state.

“This misguided legislation will make lawbreakers out of average citizens,” the party stated on its website. “The government does not have authority to register firearm sales between private parties. As such, this law is unjust and will create a black market in private party firearm sales, making it harder for law enforcement to do its job in investigating firearms-related crimes.”

Supporters of the bill may find their victory short-lived as well. Petitions are currently underway to recall three of the lawmakers who supported the legislation, including House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-Eugene).

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