On June 27th we told you about John Kitzhaber’s war on gun owners.
In the last legislative session, Kitzhaber and his cronies in the legislature attempted to pass a bill that would have required that you ask the permission of the State Police before giving a gun to your oldest and best friend. You might very well not be allowed to lend a handgun to your girlfriend without the consent of the state, while you were out of town on business.
In a letter from Legislative Counsel to Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli dated Feb 5, 2014, they stated:
“Therefore, for example, when a man gives his firearm to his girlfriend to use for protection without any compensation in return or any sort of expectation of a return date, a court would most likely see the transfer as a gift that would require a criminal background check under an amended ORS 166.436.”
It was just plain dangerous and served no purpose other than to expand the vast database of gun owners and place more roadblocks in the way of law abiding gun owners.
The Oregon State Police ID unit has an abysmal history of conducting the checks it is currently tasked with and frequently delays or denies purchases that should be approved. Resolving one of their mistakes can become a second career for a person who has been unjustifiably prevented from purchasing a firearm. For some, this can be life threatening.
During the hearings for the bill, SB 1551, we pointed out that it made little sense to expand background checks to all transfers when no action was being taken against persons whose criminal background prohibited them from buying guns when they attempted to do so. Oddly, at that hearing, the State Police testified that they had no statutory authority to take any action when a felon, or someone who was otherwise legally prohibited from buying a gun tried to do so.
This prompted a letter from Ferrioli to Legislative Counsel inquiring whether this was, in fact, true. LC responded on May 5, 2014 with a letter that stated:
“Despite these statutory limits on the departments sharing of records and information, there is no Oregon statute limiting or prohibiting the department from notifying a local law enforcement agency when, during a firearm criminal background check, the department finds that the prospective recipient of the firearm has been convicted of a felony, has a criminal warrant for the person’s arrest or has been committed to the Oregon Health Authority or is subject to a firearm prohibition order under ORS 426.130, or that the firearm has been stolen. There are also no constitutional provisions that would prohibit this kind of notification. Under ORS 181.548 and 166.412, the information cannot be released to the public. However, there is nothing preventing the department from sharing the information with a law enforcement agency for the purpose of enforcing criminal laws or apprehending an offender.”
In short, OSP was wrong. They had every authority to inform local police that a criminal act was taking place and enforcement could commence.
On June 18th, the Oregon State Police sent a letter to gun dealers advising them of a new “policy.” From now on, every time a firearms purchase was denied, a State Trooper would be taken off the road to conduct an “investigation.”
The problem is, vast numbers of “denials” are issued in error or for reasons that have nothing to do with criminal behavior. So, scarce State Police resources are being squandered as a result of mistakes and lousy record keeping on the part of the State Police ID Unit.
But things are worse than we first reported. The number of “investigations” has grown of course, but while we keep hearing of people being questioned for denials no one can explain, we cannot document a single case where anyone has
been arrested been taken into custody.
We do know of an ever growing number of cases where Troopers are dispatched to “investigate” with absolutely no idea why they are conducting the investigations. This, in spite of the fact that the OSP’s own “training bulletin” states :
“The incident will be dispatched as a call for service,including suspect name,dealer location, and reason for denial.” Emphasis added
In every case of which we have been informed, the Trooper had no idea why he had been dispatched.
In the two cases we know of where the media has reported on this issue, both reports attempted to place responsibility for this new policy, not on Kitzhaber who ordered it, but on Ted Ferrioli for simply pointing out that the OSP did have the authority to act on attempted illegal purchases and requesting that something be done when truly prohibited persons were trying to buy guns.
In a report by OPB, Chris Lehman said: “The new policy is apparently in response to a request from Republican state senator Ted Ferrioli.”
In an article by Jake Thomas in the Portland Mercury, he said: “Governor John Kitzhaber, prompted by one of the Oregon Legislature’s most powerful Republicans, has quietly introduced a new policy aimed at changing that, the Mercury has learned. ” Emphasis added.
It’s simply not credible that the Governor has sent a order to the only police he directly controls at the request of a Republican Senator, but in any event, what Ferrioli requested was action when prohibited persons tried to buy guns, not every time the OSP ID unit mistakenly flagged a person. And certainly Ferrioli did not ask that Troopers be pressured to take action when they had no probable cause.
In one case we know of, a person attempted to purchase a rifle. After being denied, he spoke to the responding Trooper who agreed he had no information that would suggest the buyer had done anything illegal. The buyer then left, only to get a call from the Trooper who apologized but informed the “suspect” that he “had to” cite him.
The Trooper met the “suspect” at an agreed upon location where the “suspect” was given a ticket for “attempted unlawful purchase” with a mandatory appearance date. Neither the “suspect” nor the Trooper had any idea what the reason for the denial was. This is all the more concerning since the “training bulletin” given to the Troopers says:
“The statutes above require you to prove the suspect“knowingly”was aware they are not qualified for these transactions. The suspect’s culpable mental state will need to be determined.”
When the “suspect” contacted the courts to inquire about his mandatory appearance. he was told everything had been dropped!
In an equally troubling case, a person who attempted a purchase last March received a “delay.” The following April he was stopped and charged with a DUI. In May, he was placed in a “diversion” program. Neither the charge of DUI nor the diversion would have prevented him from buying a gun. In June, he failed to meet some requirement of the diversion so a warrant was issued. In July a Trooper was sent to investigate him based on the attempted purchase the previous March, before he had ever been charged with anything!
In every case we know of the Troopers seem to be trying to do the right thing. So far, we know of no cases where a real bad guy has been stopped or arrested. If there are any, the Governor and OSP are certainly keeping it to themselves. Even our friends in the “approved” media don’t seem to be getting any information.
But the OSP Troopers are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. They are being told to “investigate” but they don’t know why. They are being pressured to cite “offenders” and have no probable cause. In one case we were informed of, a responding Trooper determined he had no probable cause to take any action against a denied buyer. He took his concerns up the chain of command to his Captain who supported his decision. Now that Captain has been demoted. Numerous Troopers have implied that they have no doubt that his decision not to take action against the buyer was the reason for his demotion.
It’s clear that this policy and the actions Troopers are being forced to take are purely political. Dangerous offenders are not being taken off the street but qualified buyers are having their rights violated by the Governor and higher-ups at the State Police who do the Governor’s bidding. Scare resources are being squandered so the anti-gun zealots in Salem can say they are “taking action.” Troopers are being put at risk of making unjustified arrests. Careers are being ruined and morale is suffering for political gain.
If you were not concerned about the millions of your dollars Kitzhaber threw away on Cover Oregon, you may want to consider how easily you could be the next victim of his holy war.