Oregon Legislature sends omnibus gun control bill to governor


A bill passed by the Oregon Legislature on Wednesday would place the state under one of the strictest gun storage laws around if signed into law.

The omnibus gun control bill, SB 554, opens the door for local governments and school districts to set up ‘gun-free zones' banning guns from public premises. Violations count as Class C felonies punishable by fines up to $125,000 and five years in prison. It doubles the cost of concealed handgun license fees from $50 to $100 and raises renewal fees from $50 to $75. Oregon is an open-carry state.

Senate Bill 554 has picked up numerous amendments since it was introduced in January, including one allowing local governments to ban guns from public parks. Another amendment would allow shooting victims in established gun-free zones to sue for damages.

Attached to SB 554 is a longer bill, SB 2510, which would require gun owners to lock away their weapons with trigger or cable locks. Under SB 2510, gun owners would have 72 hours to report lost or stolen guns and task them with monitoring their use by minors.

Oregon Democrats have championed the two bills as a response to mass shootings and accidental gun injuries. Many in the party have pushed the bills in light of the Oregon capitol invasion and armed far-right rallies held in Salem and elsewhere in Oregon.

“Guns should not influence the functioning of democracy,” said state Sen. Ginny Burdick, a chief sponsor of both bills. “Attempting to influence legislation through veiled and overt threats is wrong.”

A Three Percenter militia group is planning to rally against pandemic rules at the Department of Human Services building in Salem on Friday at noon. The event is being organized on Facebook by Angela Roman, a legislative aide to state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Polk County. Nearman was criminally charged for his role in the Oregon capitol invasion last week. He did not appear at a far-right gun rights rally in Salem he was scheduled to speak at on Saturday.

The two bills have been under fire from Oregon Republicans, who describe them as an attack on personal freedom and a ‘backdoor tax' on gun owners. Efforts to stall SB 554's passage out of committee failed along party lines.

“If you are unable to restrict or take care of criminals and illegal guns, ask yourself why you, our representative, paid by our taxes, would go after law-abiding citizens and make them felons by exercising their constitutional rights,” Torsten Kamrath testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.

SB 554 takes effect 91 days after the state legislature adjourns on June 28. The bill now awaits action by Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.

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