SALEM — A new law that could have costly impacts for law-abiding gun owners is headed back to the state senate after passing 34-24 in the Oregon House of Representatives Thursday, May 29.
The bill, SB-554B, is named the “Cindy Yuille and Steve Forsyth Act” for victims of a 2012 shooting at Clackamas Town Center where the shooter used a stolen semi-automatic rifle. The bill also cites suicide statistics, saying gloomy Oregon is among the top top-ranked states to off oneself. Portrayed as a safe-storage gun law, it would require owners to store firearms under lock and key or to be close enough to an unlocked weapon to beat someone else to it.
But the 23-page bill is packed tight as a cartridge case with other conditions, causing three Democrats to break ranks and vote ‘no,’ including local state representative David Gomberg of House District 10. Following the 34-24 vote, he explained the bill and why he is against it.
“I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I am also a supporter of common-sense gun laws,” remarked Gomberg. “I believe responsible gun owners should secure firearms so that children do not have access to them. That said, I have some major concerns about this legislation.”
Gomberg cited concerns over enforcement and fee increases that double the cost of concealed handgun licenses (CHL). He also didn’t like a section that exposes gun owners to liability for damages caused by stolen guns.
“I am troubled about enforceability,” he said. “How do we confirm that firearms in private homes are safely stored without violating that privacy? Will reasonable people stop to secure firearms when they leave the house to walk the dog or cut the grass? And I’m troubled by provisions that hold owners liable in some circumstances for future injuries if a gun is stolen.”
Triggered by riots and pandemic concerns, over seven million guns were sold last year nationally. At Lincoln City Sporting Goods, more than 2,400 firearms were sold in March, 2020, according to owner Bruce Polvi.
“We also sold 750,000 rounds of ammunition,” Polvi stated. “A lot of them were first-time buyers who were surprised to learn that we actually have a background check. The media has built up the impression that we don’t have them.”
Meanwhile, $50 applications for the CHL — which requires professional training and a sweeping criminal background check — are backlogged at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
“Fee increases for law-abiding Oregonians have not been fully justified to my satisfaction,” remarked Gomberg. “I also don’t like that the new bill now has an Emergency Clause that lets it take effect immediately rather than leave the option for opponents to try and gather signatures and refer it to the ballot.”
Opponents of the bill argued it would do little to stop bad actors while turning peaceable gun owners and sportsmen into criminals. Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation pointed to the provision allowing public agencies — schools, airports, cities and counties — to ban lawfully concealed weapons from their buildings and “adjacent properties,” where they are currently allowed.
“It’s so broad that every time you get in your car and go on a hunting trip and drive by a public building you risk five years in prison,” he said. “If you pick up your kids at school or drop somebody off at the airport, it’s a felony.”
In a last-minute change, legislators dropped the emergency clause that would have blocked a statewide vote on the package. The bill will now return in its amended version to the state senate for a final vote.