Guest: What the nation can learn from Oregon’s gun reform history

This piece reflects the views of Carly Armendariz, Clare Malone and Jordan Vargas, and not those of Emerald Media Group. The piece is part of a series of op-eds from Peter Laufer’s Reporting I class at the SOJC. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected]

Is the Parkland shooting simply another media cycle that will pass in a few weeks, or are we experiencing a movement towards tangible change? The Parkland shooting has stirred up political debate regarding America’s current regulations on guns. This event has created momentum around activism for gun control. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and when we look at the history of gun control in Oregon, this would not be the first time that a school shooting elicited a change in gun regulations.

In 1989, a similar mass shooting occurred in Stockton, California. Patrick Edward Purdy killed five children, wounded 29, and killed himself in a school yard using a semi-automatic rifle that he purchased legally. In response to the Stockton shooting, Vera Katz, then-Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, drew up House Bill 3470. The actions Katz took with the bill made Oregon in accordance with the U.S. regulations and is the basis for many of the gun laws we have in Oregon today. For example, the bill required longer waiting periods for gun purchases, stricter regulations around convicted felons and a thumbprint on the dealer’s record of sale. Oregon’s history around gun control indicates that school shootings can be the catalyst for change in the nation.

The Parkland shooting created the extra attention on gun laws that was needed for Oregon Governor Kate Brown to request a change in one of the state laws regarding firearms. House Bill 4145 was passed by the House on Feb. 15, 2018 and by the Senate on Feb. 22, 2018.  This bill focuses on helping people who are victims of domestic violence, while also preventing people who are not fit to be purchasing guns from getting them.

On Feb. 21, a representative from the office of representative Phil Barnhart stated that the bill would be voted on the next day. HB4145 is just a revision of a bill that already existed. The current bill is more specific, stating that it only applies to people who live with their abuser. It is necessary for the bill to be revised because there are many people in abusive relationships who do not live with their partner. People should not have to fear that their abuser could enter their home at any time with a gun in hand.

Just in the Eugene and Springfield area alone, obtaining a firearm is easy if you’re at least 18 years of age, have a valid state ID and undergo a subtle background check, according to the local shops in town. These local shop owners said that during these background checks, they are primarily checking if the buyer has a criminal background or is engaged in some type of criminal behavior. If the buyer is found to have some type of criminal history, the buyer may still be able to buy a gun; however, it’s dependent on the severity of their crime. The severity of a buyer’s previous crimes will determine what type of restrictions may be enforced during that transaction, whether that means they can’t purchase additional items like scopes or suppressors or they can’t buy a gun at all because federal or state law prohibits them.  

HB4145 shows that change concerning gun control after the Parkland shooting is already starting to happen. If Americans continue to focus our attention on this event to promote change, we will be making steps in the right direction. The Stockton shooting proves that tragic events can be the basis for change, so it’s important that we continue speaking up to make that change happen.

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