SALEM — The Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill 37-to-23 Thursday to keep domestic abusers and stalkers from having firearms.
House Bill 4145 closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” or “intimate partner,” in state law that omitted stalkers and domestic abusers who are not a spouse, former spouse, live-in partner or co-parent from the gun ban.
“I believe from the bottom of my heart this bill will save lives in Oregon,” said Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Floor debate over the bill drew out emotional speeches and revelations about personal experiences from lawmakers. Barker, a former police officer, recounted responding to a gruesome scene in which a young mother had attempted to protect herself from her abuser and had her hand blown off before being killed.
Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, wept as she talked about verbal and physical abuse she experienced from an alcohol father.
Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, said he also had witnessed horrific domestic abuse during his former career as a police officer. Olson voted against the bill, because, he said, it would not prevent abusers from obtaining guns illegally and killing or injuring others. The legislation also fails the address the root cause of gun violence, he said.
“This bill doesn’t fix the systemic problems our state is experiencing that is why I am going to vote no.”
The legislation also would require Oregon State Police to notify other law enforcement when they learn someone has tried to obtain a gun illegally.
Under existing law, only convicted abusers in domestic relationships, such as a spouse, former spouse, co-parent or live-in partner, are prohibited from having guns. The bill expands the ban to current and past intimate partners of all kinds and stalkers.
Barker said as a compromise with reluctant supporters of the bill, he and other sponsors agreed to remove a provision that would automatically dispossess an accused abuser or stalker of their guns if they missed one court hearing.
A study by the Oregon Department of Justice showed that more than 16 Oregonians were killed in nine separate domestic violence incidents between Dec. 25, 2016, and Jan. 16, 2017. Not all of the fatalities involved romantic relationships.
Women are more likely to be killed in domestic disputes when a gun is present in the home, Barker said.
Laws aimed at keeping guns from abusers have reduced homicides of intimate partners, according to recent research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.