Hey, Oregon legislators, how about insisting on answers to fundamental questions about SB 941? The bill has been hotly debated, and yet basic bits of information about it are still missing.
The House Rules Committee plans to hold a long hearing on the Senate-passed bill Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m. with invited testimony and continuing from 3 to 10 p.m. with public comments of two minutes each, with half an hour set aside for dinner.
That sounds like a lot of talk, and I bet all of it has been heard many times before. So I hope the Rules Committee members will try to cut through all the noise and nail down solid information about the bill, which would expand the background check requirement to people buying firearms from their private owners.
For instance, how many private gun sales are there on average? The Legislative Fiscal Office says, “The numbers of private party firearm transfers and background checks that will occur as a result of this measure are unknown.” But the report adds that the Oregon State Police anticipate 20,000 additional background checks per year, a number the agency can handle with present staff. Those additional background checks would yield $400,000 more state revenue per biennium. That’s another $400,000 out of the pockets of Oregon residents, but maybe to legislators that’s a minor point.
Another question is about enforcement. The only way law enforcement could learn about gun sellers evading the new requirement is through undercover work. Agents would seek to buy firearms from private owners, and if the owners did not insist on the background check, they would be nabbed. Legislators should ask the state police and local agencies: Is that what you intend to do? If not, what’s the point of this bill because you won’t know how often it is ignored, and by whom.
And finally: This is supposed to be weeding out buyers who are not allowed to buy firearms because they are felons or mental cases. If that’s all the state wants, then why does the background check form also cover the specifics of the firearm being sold? What does the make of a gun or its serial number have to do with the qualifications of the buyer?
Legislators ought to see it as their duty to clear up this in inconsistency before they advance the bill. One of the members of the Rules Committee is freshman Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, a lawyer who worked for an Albany firm. As a lawyer, he should try to get to the facts. (hh)