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11.25.12 Where We Stand

In the wake of the election many gun owners are wondering what to expect in the coming legislative session.

On the national front we have re-elected a person who has used executive power to cover up gun running to Mexican drug gangs and thinks that anyone who has ever started a successful business “didn’t build that.” He has already stated his desire to reintroduce a ban on most rifles and shotguns and has also commented on more restrictions on handguns.

You may have seen internet postings about the new “banned gun lists,” although we cannot confirm that these are accurate. What we do know is that almost immediately after winning a second term, Obama renewed efforts to get a gun control bill via United Nations treaty. It may be impossible to overestimate that particular threat. A gun ban by international treaty would be unlike any threat to our gun rights we’ve seen before.

Obama has shown no reluctance to bypass Congress to enact his agenda and Congress has shown precious little backbone to stop him. As a result there is a very real possibility that we may face some kind of new restrictions that Congress does not even weigh in on.

You may recall that when Bill Clinton was President, a whole family of shotguns was made illegal overnight by Clinton’s administration simply reclassifying them as “destructive devices.” Countless people who owned these guns were made felons overnight and many never knew it.  There is little reason to think this could not happen with virtually any gun you own, whether it’s that black “assault weapon” in your gun safe or the “sniper rifle” you’ve hunted with for 20 years.

On a statewide level, both Houses of the Oregon Legislature are once again under the control of anti-gunners. While the numbers in the Senate have not changed, some of the players have.

There are now two Democratic Senators who have a history of being pro-gun most of the time. This was the case last session, but now one, Joanne Verger, has been replaced by Arnie Roblan, who was co-speaker of the House last session. Roblan often supported gun rights in the House, and we can hope that he will continue to in the Senate, but with the exception of Senator Betsy Johnson, every other Democratic Senator is anti-gun. That means that if anti-gun legislation moves in the Senate (which it certainly will) we need to get Roblan or Johnson to buck their caucus AND we need every single Republican to take a stand or the bill passes. That’s going to be a tough hill to climb.

In the House, the numbers are even worse. What had been an evenly split House is now controlled by anti-gunners 36-24.  The even split forced both sides to work together but you can bet that the Obama victory and the takeover by Democrats will be seen as a “mandate” for more gun control.

While we have a handful of fairly pro-gun Democrats in the House, there is simply no telling how much pressure will be put on them by the Democratic Caucus, and it gets worse.

The new Speaker of the House is Tina Kotek. Kotek is anti-gun, as are most House Democrats, and she will have the power to decide who sits on which committees and to appoint committee chairs. Committee Chairs have virtual life-and-death power over bills that come before them.

For some time, Democrat Jeff Barker has been chair or co-chair of House Judiciary, which hears gun bills.  Barker has been solid on gun rights all this time, but there is no guarantee that he will get this chairmanship again. If he does not, the most likely candidates for the job are all anti-gun.

This is probably the most dangerous situation for gun owners. If Kotek appoints a chair of House Judiciary who is anywhere near as militant and irrational as the likely chair of Senate Judiciary, Floyd Prozanski, gun owners in Oregon are in for the fight of their lives.

We believe multiple anti-gun bills have been “pre-session” filed and will be ready for introduction on the first day of the new session. It’s safe to say they will include a ban on modern rifles, shotguns and ammunition feeding devices, a reversal of Oregon’s “preemption” law and a ban on concealed carry anywhere school children congregate.

One more factor will be important in 2013. Long time NRA lobbyist Rod Harder is retiring. At this time we do not expect him to be replaced, so barring something really unexpected we believe there will be no regular NRA representation in Oregon. As you know, we have had many differences with NRA over the years, but Rod has been a close friend and trusted colleague for a long time and he will be missed.

There is no question that gun owners will have their work cut out for them. There will be an awful lot to do in 2013. It’s not going to be easy. But we’ll be there, and with your help, we’ll win.

We wish you a very happy Christmas season and suggest you rest up. We’re all going to be busy.