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04.20.11 NICS BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE, STILL ON HOLD IN SENATE

ONE BILL MOVES, ONE BILL HELD OVER

Today, both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees were scheduled to vote on bills that would save gun owners enormous hassles and Oregonians millions of dollars.

The Senate Committee was, once again, due to vote on SB 934, a bill which would remove the responsibility for running firearms background checks from the Oregon State Police and turn those checks over to the feds, who do not charge and have a far better track record of getting the checks done efficiently.

For the record, OFF does not support or endorse any background checks for a number of reasons. FIrst, we believe it is a prior restraint on your rights. Second we do not believe it prevents bad actors from getting guns.  However, as long as we are saddled with a federal mandate to subject ourselves to background checks, we believe we should have the least time consuming and least expensive system we can. RIght now, that would be the federal NICS system.

Although SB 934 has been scheduled for action for several days, it was once again postponed. We have been told that amendments to the bill have been drafted, but as of now, we have not been permitted to see them. It is very likely that the amendments will completely change the contents of the bill. Until we see the amendments we simply do not know. However, when we see them, you will see them.

In the House, a work session was held on a similar bill, HB 2791.

As with SB 934, this bill would end the fees and delays on background checks by removing the State Police as the point of contact. While more and more states who rely on local authorities have been experiencing problems with background checks, states that use the national NICS system have been having no problems.

The House Judiciary Committee took testimony from the Oregon State Police at today’s work session even though OSP chose not to comment at the public hearing where testimony is normally taken. At that hearing, the only testimony taken against the bill was from the public employee’s union.

The OSP said that the delays dealers have been experiencing while trying to contact them on the phone, and the surge in delays in approvals was due to a big increase in background check requests. Oddly, they also said that in spite of the almost three million dollars in federal grants already received to forward mental health records to the feds, they have not yet done so.

While we, of course, wonder what they have been doing with the money, we are more perplexed by the statement that they have not shared any mental health records as required by federal law.

To be clear, we oppose sharing that data and fought hard to prevent Oregon from enacting a law that forced us into compliance with the NRA-and-Brady-Campaign-backed legislation demanding this sensitive information. But the fact is, we are now stuck with this law and the OSP has gotten lots of money to comply. What is particularly inexplicable is their statement that they have shared no information with the feds, when we already know of one person who has been denied firearms purchases because of mental health records that the feds recently got.

What’s even more troubling is that this person had already had his rights restored by the courts! So why his private data was shared with the feds is a mystery.  Clearly, someone is not getting his story straight.

A side note to this issue is that Psychiatric Safety Review Board has received almost $300,000.00 to conduct gun rights restoration hearings and so far has conducted …none. They have also created a resolution process so onerous, expensive and invasive that few rational people would attempt it. When you get a boatload of money to run a process that no one wants to engage in, you get to keep a boatload of money.

The vote on HB 2791 had a few surprises.

(One thing that was not a surprise was when Representative Carolyn Tomei expressed opposition to the bill because she wanted to “keep Oregon jobs.”  In other words, gun owners should pay twice in order to insure that the people who work in the ID unit at OSP have jobs. The millions in savings to Oregon did not impress Tomei.)

The first surprise was when Representative Andy Olson vote no. Usually a reliable supporter of gun rights, Olson’s “no” vote was unexpected.  Mary Nolan, who can always be counted on to vote against gun rights, regardless of the millions in potential savings for Oregon, stated that it was Olson’s vote that convinced her to vote “no.”  Representative Gene Whisnant was excused at the time of the vote. As a supporter, his vote was crucial. (Whisnant was attending other business and not avoiding this vote.)

In the end Representaitves Krieger, Barker, Wand, Hicks and Schaufler vote yes.

A “yes” vote was a vote for gun rights and common sense.

Tomei, Nolan and Olson voted no.

The deciding vote, which passed the bill, came from Representative Chris Garrett, who said that while he expected to vote “no” on the floor, he was casting a courtesy vote for the excused Whisnant and voted “yes.”

Ironically, a regular supporter of gun rights, Andy Olson, almost sank this important bill, and a Democrat who often votes against gun rights saved it.

We hope they will both reconsider their positions and vote “yes” on the floor of the House, but there can be no denying that it was Garrett’s vote that kept this bill alive.

The bill is now scheduled to go to the full House floor, although procedural moves could send it to another committee. But right now we have to assume the next step is the House floor.

Please take a moment to write your own House rep and urge a “yes” vote on HB 2791.

Your rep can be reached using this link.

A sample message follows:

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Dear Representative,

HB 2791 has been voted out of the House Judiciary Committee and should be coming to you on the House floor soon.

This common sense bill can save Oregon millions in duplicated services and eliminate costly delays for Oregon’s law-abiding gun owners. I strongly urge you vote yes on a bill that will accomplish so much at no cost.

Yours,

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