Wrong again, Mr. President

The White House made the president's remarks available online.

The White House made the president's remarks available online.

President Obama sounded bitterly disappointed when the Senate failed to get 60 votes for his gun-control ideas including a so-called "universal background check." He called Wednesday's Senate vote a shameful day in America. But he was wrong.

He himself bears part of the blame for pushing legislation of dubious merit and then shamelessly exploiting the grief of Newtown and other shootings to promote the cause.

A universal background check may be supported by 90 percent of the voters, but only as long as they don't think of all that it entails. It would require assembling a colossal databank not just of criminal histories, which we already have, but also of psychiatric records and anything else that bears on whether a person should have the right to exercise a constitutional right.

If a man seeks treatment for depression, should his name go into the database so he can't buy a gun? Already we've read of veterans in their 60s barred from buying a gun because when they were in the service 40 years before they got into a bar fight and pleaded guilty to assault. Almost every week the local paper reports on cases of ex-felons being charged with having a firearm. They got a gun even though they could never pass the background check Oregon already has, proving the obvious: The law on background checks means nothing if you steal your gun yourself or buy it from a thief.

No, far from giving rise to shame, the Senate minority did the right thing in blocking a law that would do little good but then, in the normal course of things, would be followed by other laws clamping down even more. (hh)

CHL bills softened, but still …

Keeping an eye on -- or over -- the Capitol.

Keeping an eye on -- or over -- the Capitol.

Keeping an eye on -- or over -- the Capitol.

The Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be taking seriously the arguments against two of the gun-related bills it has been considering. The committee was scheduled to act on the bills Wednesday but instead held them over for another day. The reason appears to be that the bills did not have the required number of votes to get out of committee. Action may come soon, though, maybe on Thursday, April 18.

Amendments have been offered to make the bills less offensive to defenders of citizens' rights under the federal and state constitutions. Senate Bill 347, for example, started out making felons of concealed handgun license holders who carried a weapon on school grounds unless school boards adopted a policy allowing this. The latest proposed amendment would allow CHL holders to carry in schools, as they can now, unless school boards specifically prohibit it.

Senate Bill 796 started by requiring CHL applicants to pass a live-fire test that would have been hard to take, let alone pass. Then the test was made easier. Now, the latest proposed amendment drops the test altogether, keeping the present law that applicants must pass a safety class, adding only that they must attend in person.

These bills are better than they were. Still, the fundamental question remains. There have been no problems with CHL holders, no problems that need solutions. So why trouble them with these bills at all? (hh)

Shooting bill: Why exactly?

TARGET2Senate Bill 796 would require applicants for an Oregon concealed handgun license to prove they can shoot a handgun. Who could argue with that? Except that the original bill by Sen. Floyd Prozanski of Eugene was unworkable. It would require applicants to get a score of at least 70 percent on a shooting test almost impossible to complete for someone who buys a five-shot revolver for personal protection and wants to carry it around.

Of the 50 shots in the test, 10 rounds would have to be fired with three seconds allowed for each two shots. The applicant would almost have to be a seasoned wheel-gunner equipped with a speed loader in order to accomplish that -- or buy a semi-automatic with at least a 10-round magazine. An amendment has been offered to the bill for possible action today, April 17. It would require an applicant to hit 21 of 30 shots, with 10 each taken from three, five and seven yards, and there's no time limit. That's much more reasonable.

The amendment also deals with logistics. It would allow applicants to take the shooting test up to a year before applying.

The main problem remains: The bill has no purpose other than to create red tape and expense for license applicants. If there's a problem with CHL holders trying to shoot people and missing, no one has pointed it out. (hh)

Sales tax? A closer look

100_0501If Oregon voters are ever going to approve a sales tax, two conditions have to be met. It has to be simple, and it has to replace one of the other big taxes we have, either the income tax or the property tax. The proposal discussed by the state Senate tax committee on April 15 -- a fitting date -- meets neither of those conditions.

It would take effect only if voters approve it, and it might be placed on the ballot in 2014 or '16. But take a look at the proposal as it stands so far. Its complexities are spelled out in the 75 pages of Senate Bill 824.

The income tax would be lowered but not repealed. Filing the state return would become more complicated so that lower-income people could claim a credit to partially reimburse them for paying sales tax.

The property tax would exempt the first $50,000 of assessed value of homes occupied by their owners. The burden of annual bills remains, and establishing that a place is owner-occupied makes the system even more cumbersome for tax collectors.

The sales tax, originally 5 percent on goods and services, could not be raised without an election. But in 2009 we saw how the coalition of Democrats in the legislature and public employee unions was able to push through a tax hike in the depths if an economic depression. When the public sector wants more money, the election requirement would be only a weak guarantee against the tax rate going up. (hh)

Jon Mangis responded on April 16: Your message is right on.  With a history of failure when presented to the electorate, it always amazes me that "those thinkers"  don't think. Oregonians are not going to vote for a sales tax unless they see an equal reduction in income or property taxes. It is
always asking for more when in fact Oregon seems to have done satisfactory during the recession with less revenue. They seem to do better if required to come up for a special freeway lane for Burdick or flushing toilets....no wait. Perhaps if they were to pull their collective heads from their behinds more flushing will be needed.  Taxes and death....  said before.

Less flushing? It’s the law!

Legal flow? Hard to tell.

Legal flow? Hard to tell.

Our Oregon legislature is filled with earnest legislators who like nothing better than to make new laws. So it won't be a complete surprise for you to learn that they intend to tighten their control of, among many other things, the amount of water you flush down the toilet.

On April 12, according to the legislative information system, the Senate committee on the environment and natural resources endorsed Senate Bill 840, which "imposes new water use limitations on fixtures" and would take effect in 2016.

As it turns out, the flushing capacity of Oregon toilets and urinals is already a matter of state law. The law says the average volume of water in new toilets shall not exceed 1.6 gallons per flush. The bill would cut that maximum average flush back to 1.3 gallons. As for urinals, the bill would reduce their legal water use by half, from one gallon to half a gallon per flush. That's for a floor-mounted urinal. For one that's hanging on the wall, the average flush would be cut back to 0.125 gallons.

Not content with flushing, our lawmakers are also planning to reduce the allowed flow rate for new faucets in your bathrooms and elsewhere in your house. The legal flow rate of shower heads, thankfully, would be left alone. The goal is water conservation, of course. But how do these standards help if they cause people to flush two or three times or wash their hands twice as long? (hh)

Rich Kellum responded on April 15: I think what needs flushing is certain legislators' priorities.

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