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2007 Bills – SB 283. An Analysis

Senate Bill 283, which creates criminal penalties for people who do not lock up their firearms, may be one of the most poorly drafted bills in recent memory.

If you want to take a look at the bill yourself, you can view it here.

When this bill was first introduced, we alerted our members to the danger that it could penalize you, if one of your guns was stolen and misused by a person under 16. Upon further analysis, we came to the conclusion that in fact, you were NOT liable if your firearm was stolen.

Upon even further analysis, we concluded that maybe we were right the first time.

Let’s take a look at some of the provisions of this bill. It’s very complicated, so bear with us.

Section 1 says the following:

SECTION 1. { + (1) A person commits the crime of unlawful storage of a firearm if:
(a) The person, with criminal negligence, stores or leaves a firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a minor who is younger than 16 years of age is likely to gain access to the firearm;
(b) A minor who is younger than 16 years of age gains access to the firearm; and
(c) The minor:
(A) Possesses the firearm in a public place;
(B) Exhibits the firearm in a careless, angry or threatening manner; or
(C) Injures or kills a person by means of the firearm.

Notice, these are three different ways you can be liable.

Subsection “A” says you are liable if the minor under 16 gains possession of your firearm and is in a “public place.” But what if the minor is in a public place with a firearm he owns himself?

A minor is allowed to own a firearm with his parent’s permission. If your 15 year old daughter takes her own rifle and walks to the gun club, thereby crossing a “public place,” has a crime been committed?

Section 3 of the bill says the following:

(3) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply if:
(a) The minor obtains and possesses the firearm while under the direct supervision of the minor’s parent or guardian..

That’s fine if you are with them all the time. But if, as in the above example, they are away from you for a brief time, and on public property, has a crime been committed and by whom?

If they got the gun from your gun safe, it would seem you are. But if the gun was always in their possession, meaning it was kept in their own room, what does that mean?
Immediately following the above mentioned section is this:

(b) The minor obtains possession of the firearm:
(A) In a lawful act of self-defense or defense of another; or
(B) Through the illegal act of any person other than the person referred to in subsection (1)(a) of this section;
(c) The firearm is equipped with a trigger lock or other safe storage device;
(d) The firearm is stored in a securely locked container or in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure;
(e) The firearm is rendered inoperable by the removal of an essential component of the firing mechanism; or
(f) The person is a peace officer or member of the military forces of this state or the United States and the minor obtained the firearm during, or incidental to, the performance of the person’s duties.

Section 3(B) of the bill would appear to mean that if the gun were acquired through any illegal act, the liability would not apply. So any gun that was taken from your possession by an illegal act and misused, would not expose you to criminal penalties.

But that would cover almost anytime a minor had one of your firearms without your permission. Persons under 18 may not have handguns without their guardian’s permission. So if a minor had one of your handguns and you did not give it to her, it would seem that would be an “illegal act” and not subject the penalties in this bill. Similarly, if a long gun were taken without your permission, that would seem to be a theft. Does that mean no criminal penalty would apply?

Following section (B) are subsections (c) (d) (e) and (f).

One reading of this bill would treat them like they are to be dealt with separately from section (B) meaning that if your gun was equipped with a locking device you would not be liable if the gun was misused, in addition to the protections you would have if the gun was stolen.

But an entirely different interpretation could be that those mandatory lockup provisions would protect you if the gun were stolen, but you would NOT be protected if the gun was stolen and did NOT have a locking device. Confused? Don’t feel lonely.

Our experience with authorities has shown us how often the law is misunderstood and misapplied.

Consider how many sheriffs think that US Citizens must live in their counties for 6 months before applying for a concealed handgun license, a provision that legally only applies to “legal resident aliens.” Or consider how a Judge in Multnomah County ruled that Portland’s New Years party was a “private” event and therefore CHL holders could be banned.

This bill is clearly intended to punish gun owners. Oddly it exempts police. We have to wonder why? Why does it not penalize those who allow people 16 year old and older to gain access to firearms?

If negligence is now to be a crime, it should be a crime for everyone, not just gun owners. If you leave a baseball bat available and a minor gets it and beats a neighbor’s cat to death, should you not be as criminally liable as if a gun gets into the hands of a minor who then takes it to a “public place?”

We think the potential for this bill to be misused is tremendous. We hope you will join us in opposing it.

As always, we invite your comments.