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03.06.14 Update On SB 1551

The twists and turns of SB 1551 are continuing.

The bill started life as an attempt by Floyd Prosanzki and other anti-rights legislators to create a universal gun registration scheme in Oregon of the type being used in other states to confiscate guns from people whose only crime was owning Constitutionally-protected firearms.

If passed, SB 1551 would prohibit you from giving or loaning a gun to your best friend, or even your girlfriend.

Although Prozanski denied that the bill would have that effect, his own attorneys said it was true.

Because of the tireless efforts of gun owners, the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was sent to the Senate Rules Committee because that committee stays open after others have closed.

This was an effort to keep the bill alive long enough for the sponsors to twist arms or figure out some other way to get it passed.  When it looked like they had no hope, Prozanski proposed to “gut and stuff” the bill with entirely new and unrelated language. His new proposed language can be seen here.

The new language has nothing to do with the original bill, but because the original version had a public hearing, the new bill can be moved with no public input at all. In this way the legislature can pass bills without your having any opportunity to testify for or against the bill. That’s how things are done in Salem.

So what would the new bill do?

The universal background checks and registration that the proponents claimed were essential are gone.  In their place, new restrictions have been added to prohibit persons with “mental disorders” who have been ordered by the court to submit to “outpatient” treatment from purchasing or possessing firearms.

Oregon law already allows the court to prohibit persons with “mental illness” from having or buying firearms. (ORS 426.130), so what does this expansion to “mental disorders” mean?

According to Legislative Counsel, the lawyers for the legislature, “mental disorder” is not defined.

In ORS 426.005 a person with a “mental illness” is defined as:

“a person who, because of a mental disorder, is one or more of the following:

(A) Dangerous to self or others.

 (B) Unable to provide for basic personal needs and is not receiving such care as is necessary for health or safety….

ORS 146.133 says a person may be compelled to undergo “assisted outpatient treatment” (i.e. FORCED outpatient treatment) if the person has a “mental disorder.”  But nowhere is the term defined.

Do you have a “mental disorder” because you’ve been depressed? Anxious? Have PTSD? Or do you suffer from clinical paranoia simply because you are a gun owner?

This guy thinks so.  So does this guy.  And these folks, and these and these and these.

The people in Connecticut were called “paranoid” (a “mental disorder”) and now they are facing felony charges for owning modern rifles.

It’s important to note that all this new language does is create another class of prohibited persons and add more names to the Federal databanks.

It further stigmatizes people who may actually need and want help.

It does not provide a dime of assistance to those in need of mental health treatment.

The amendment also requires that Sheriffs and local police be informed if a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun. That is, no doubt, a reaction to our pointing out how rarely anything is actually done about people who try to buy guns when they are prohibited. And it’s fine idea if safeguards are included to protect people who are denied as a result of mistakes made by the state police, an all-too-common occurrence.

We have been informed that more amendments are coming, and there may even be a brand new bill. That bill may come from Republicans and deal only with contacting police when a prohibited person attempts a purchase.  We still believe that safeguards must be attached to any bill that does this.

It makes no sense to act on complicated legislation like this in the last hours of the session, when tempers are flaring and everyone wants to go home. But for some legislators, pride and a desire for revenge are more important than thoughtful legislation.

Please let your legislators know you oppose any 11th-hour attempts to ram through poorly crafted legislation. You can find your Oregon legislators by using the “Find My Legislators” tab on this page.  They will be the ones listed under “Senate” and “House” after you provide your address.

Thanks for keeping the heat on.