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Gun bill’s effect: Nobody knows

The Capitol looks pretty no matter what goes on inside.

It would be nice if Oregon legislators insisted on getting some facts instead of voting based on assumptions and emotions, as the Senate Judiciary Committee did on the gun-confiscation bill it passed, 3-2, on Tuesday.

The firearms provisions were stuffed into an unrelated bill, SB 719, which cleared the committee on the votes of its three Democrats. The two Republicans voted no. The bill would authorize judges to order citizens to surrender any firearms they own and not buy new ones for a year if relatives or the police think the citizens are at risk of hurting themselves or others. It's being billed as a suicide-prevention bill. But it could also be used to try to disarm people with a history of violence who may be a threat to their families or others.

How would this bill work if it becomes a law? Nobody seems to know, at least nobody on the Senate committee or among the many people who testified.

The Legislative Fiscal Office issued a report on the impact of the bill. The impact is "indeterminate," it says. "The number of protective orders that may be filed with the courts is unknown. Additionally, the number of orders that may need to (be) served and deadly weapons that may need to be seized and retained by the Oregon State Police or other law enforcement entities is unknown."

California, with a population 10 times as big as Oregon's, has had a similar law since 2014. So there should be at least some information on how often the law has been used, and how it has worked. But nobody at the legislature bothered to find out. (As for me, I struck out trying to find something on the topic online, but I don't have the resources of the legislative research staff.)

Maybe these gun-seizure orders -- known as "extreme risk protection orders" -- will be similar in number to the nearly 10,000 orders issued in 2016 under Oregon's Family Abuse Protection Act and the 2,700 cases in which "stalking protective orders" were issued.

The Oregon Judicial Department guessed that the gun orders might be 10 percent of that total. If so, Oregon courts might have to order about 1,260 persons a year to hand over their firearms. Or the estimate could be way off, and the number of gun seizures might actually be closer to 12,700, which would be a fairly significant and revolutionary departure in the history of constitutional protections and civil rights.

You'd think legislators would be very interested in the effect of what they enact before they take a vote. But apparently not. (hh)

 

 

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