SALEM — A bill to strip gun rights from convicted stalkers and intimate partners convicted of abuse passed the Senate 16 to 13 Thursday, Feb. 22. The legislation goes to Gov. Kate Brown who says she intends to sign it into law.
Brown urged U.S. lawmakers to enhance protections against gun violence nationwide in the wake of a deadly mass shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The latest in a string of attacks on U.S. schools has sparked unprecedented demonstrations across the country for stronger gun laws.
“Now’s the time to enact real change, and I’m encouraged to see students in Oregon and across the nation engaged and joining the call for gun safety legislation,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s long past time we hold the White House, Congress, and legislators accountable.”
House Bill 4145 closes the so-called “boyfriend” or “intimate partner loophole,” in state law that omitted stalkers and abusers in some intimate relationships.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, who presented the bill on the Senate floor Thursday, said that his sister was murdered by a boyfriend with a gun and urged his colleagues to support the new protections. The legislation also would require Oregon State Police to notify other law enforcement when they learn someone has tried to obtain a gun illegally.
Brown described the bill as “bipartisan,” and in the House, the bill did receive support from both parties. However, in the Senate, opposition, rather than support, was bipartisan.
Representatives of Giffords, the anti-gun violence group led by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, and her husband, NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, praised Thursday’s vote by the Oregon Senate. “Oregon is continuing to step up to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Robin Lloyd, Giffords government affairs director. “Guns and domestic violence are a particularly lethal combination that have deadly consequences. Once this bill is signed loopholes will finally be closed in state law that let domestic abusers possess guns.”
Twelve Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, voted against the measure. Johnson said she opposed the bill because it would give estranged dating partners a way to seek revenge. “This is no time for an emotional response,” Johnson said of the bill.
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 stalkers and current and past intimate partners of all kinds.
Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, said existing law already bans abusers who have been intimate sexual relationships with their victim from buying or possessing guns. He said the language in the bill is full of “ambiguity” and would likely result in other loopholes.
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. Laws aimed at keeping guns from abusers have reduced homicides of intimate partners, according to recent research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.