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06.30.09 OREGON’S 75TH AND MOST EXPENSIVE LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS.

LEGISLATURE GOES HOME

Late last night, the Oregon legislature adjourned “sine die.”  “Sine die” is Latin for “let’s take a few months off and then come back and raise whatever taxes and fees we overlooked since January.”

Those Latins were very efficient with language.

This session is over. In normal times, Oregonians would not have to fear for a greater loss of money and liberty until 2011, but the days of our bi-annual session seem to be almost certainly, just a happy memory.  The legislators will be returning to the Capitol in February.

As you know, in the last hours of the session, the Oregon legislature voted to expand the Brady Bill by forcing us into compliance with HR 2640, an NRA -backed gun control bill passed in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Interestingly, the NRA chose not to support the Oregon bill, HB 2853, (pdf) but they also refused to oppose it.  Their “neutrality” on the bill created some cover for legislators who promote themselves as pro-gun. (In all fairness, they all promote themselves as pro-gun, which in some cases is quite humorous.)

HB 2853 will soon be law. The inaccurate databases that so often prevent legitimate gun sales will increase. The data-mining will continue. For a complete count of who voted to protect your rights in the Senate, click here. To see if your House Rep voted to protect your privacy click here.

There is no question that gun owners suffered a defeat on HB 2853.  But while we lost that battle, your efforts made the bill far less bad than it was when it started. The bill was amended over 10 times. Many people who would have been unfairly ensnared by it are somewhat safer. People will no longer be considered a “danger” to themselves because they are “mentally retarded” and while far from being a good bill, much was done to reduce the damage this bill will do.

It is impressive how many legislators actually stood up for your rights and privacy and voted “no”. You can rest assured that this vote will be used against them in the next election.

Campaign mail will go out saying  that legislators who voted “no” on the bill were helping mentally ill people get guns to commit massacres across our state. Knowing that, it took a lot of courage to cast a principled vote. We’re pleased so many did. But keep one thing in mind; we only got the good votes we got because of your activism. Your constant contact, your e-mails and phone calls are entirely responsible for the many votes we actually did get against this problematic legislation.

For that, we are extremely grateful.

We know how hard you worked this session. Many of you forwarded your e-mails and the responses. We are proud to have the most active, informed members in the history of gun rights in Oregon. Thank you.  And even though we lost this skirmish, your willingness to step up brought us victories in an environment where few thought we could make progress on gun rights.

Because of your communications, and only because of them, we were able to pass SB 603. (pdf) SB 603 addressed three different issues in Oregon law.

First, SB 603 finally gave us a legal definition for the term “readily accessible” for the purposes of transporting a handgun in an automobile. Present law provides no such definition, so people passing through our state really had no way of knowing if they were obeying the law. And neither did the police.  What is “readily accessible” in a Mini-Cooper ?

Without a definition, motorists were always at risk of arrest and prosecution simply for trying to go from one place to another with a handgun. Now we have a clear (and good) definition. This is long overdue.

But SB 603 did more. It corrected an error in current law that allows a person who had a felony conviction to not only petition the courts for the right to buy a firearm, but also to own a firearm.

That’s right. Under current law, you can go to court and ask to have your rights restored to buy a gun, but you’re not allowed to own it!  This has now been corrected.  The bill also addresses another problem with current law.

Under Oregon statutes, a person who has only one felony conviction, which did not involve a homicide or a weapons charge, has his rights restored 15 years after the end of his probation or parole.  But a careful reading of the law reveals that while that person can no longer be charged as a “felon in possession” they can still be charged with a misdemeanor crime of unlawful possession of a firearm.

While 603 does not completely reverse that error, it does make clear that a person who successfully petitions for a restoration of rights, gets all rights back. He cannot be charged with either “felon in possession” or a misdemeanor charge of “unlawful possession.”

In a legislative session dominated by anti-gunners in both Houses and with an anti-gun governor, this was unexpected progress, but none of it would have happened without your constant efforts to make legislators “see the light.”

Of course, our efforts to pass a clean and straightforward bill to protect the privacy of CHL holders was thwarted by one freshman House Rep. Judy Steigler managed to convince the House Judiciary Committee to take a strong bill that kept your private records private, and turn it into a roadmap for revealing this information.  Luckily, at least for now, most sheriffs seem determined to keep that information out of the hands of anti-gun media outlets. For that we praise them, but a law would be better.  This issue is NOT over. We will continue to work to ensure that private information, given as a result of a demand by the law, does not fall into the hands of people who would use this information to harm gun owners.

As the summer begins, we are thankful the legislature has wrapped up, some progress was made, and most damage contained.  Your efforts, as always, were key to our ability to keep a largely anti-gun legislature mostly in check.  Thank you for all you do, and your continued support.

Have a safe and happy summer.