Oregon legislators will consider a slew of gun control proposals this session including SB 501, a catchall bill, and a few lesser bills that mostly propose portions of what the larger bill sets out to do.
But the bill isn’t likely to get very far, said Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin.
And it shouldn’t.
The bill, which Hanlin called “irresponsible and overreaching,” would likely be ruled unconstitutional as it aims to introduce age restrictions, ammunition restrictions and a mandate that guns be locked up at all times. But as Hanlin correctly pointed out, barring 18- to 20-year-olds, who can go to war for our country, from purchasing guns, is absurd. As is an unreasonable ammo restriction which seemingly defeats the entire point of the Second Amendment.
And the locking law? Sure, in principle it sounds like a good idea, but in reality, it defeats the point of owning a weapon for self-defense.
“You’re probably not going to have time to remove a lock or get it out of a typical safe in order to protect yourself or your family,” Hanlin said.
We have to believe that the intentions of the bill are good — anything that attempts to solve the out-of-control gun violence in our country is unequivocally good — but again, what’s being asked for in SB 501 would infringe the Constitutional rights of Douglas County residents.
But again, something does need to be done. The firearm mortality rate in Oregon has been on the rise since 2015, according to numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2017, 39,673 died from firearms in the United States — equivalent to the combined populations of Roseburg, Sutherlin, Winston and Canyonville.
And there’s a pretty easy place to start: the federal government should start funding gun-violence research.
Research into gun violence, especially by the CDC, came to a halt in 1996 when Congress approved the Dickey Amendment, which restricted funding for research into gun violence and its effects on public health.
In a spending bill last year, Congress altered how the amendment could be interpreted, essentially allowing the CDC to study gun violence again, but many researchers were quick to say the slight adjustment wasn’t enough to jumpstart the process.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said they weren’t optimistic about the change and said there was no actual agreement to provide funding.
Which is a shame because former Arkansas Rep. Jay Dickey, who authored the amendment, appeared on NPR just eight days after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College to say he regretted the law bearing his own name.
The intent of the amendment, he said, was to restrict funds from being used for gun control advocacy, not research.
Research that could help find solutions that wouldn’t interfere with anyone’s right to own a gun, but would regulate ownership in such a way that fewer people are killed from guns, he said.
“I can’t tell you what (the solution) might be, but I know this,” he told NPR. “All this time that we have had, we would’ve found a solution, in my opinion.
“And I think it’s a shame that we haven’t,” he said.