The Rev. Jeremy Lucas, of Lake Owego, wanted to make some kind of point when he bought $3,000 worth of tickets in a Little League fundraising raffle to win an AR-15 rifle. The point he actually made was to illustrate the waste of time and effort caused by Oregon’s new ban on private firearms transfers without a background check by the police.
Lucas told his Episcopal congregation and the world, via the press, that he had won the raffle as he had wanted, received the prize and immediately took it to a gun-owning friend for safekeeping. The minister had submitted to a background check, but there’s no indication that the friend had. The transfer was harmless and reasonable for someone who had no interest in actually owning the weapon and no way of storing it safely. But it sounded like a violation of the Oregon law Democrats passed in 2015, which prohibits all firearms transfers to other than family members without a criminal background check by the state police.
Right away, opponents of the law took to social media to complain. The Lake Oswego police asked the state police to investigate, and OSP Trooper Tracy Clark went into action. From Aug. 4 through Sept.8, the officer worked the case, interviewing or trying to contact witnesses during part of at least six days and eventually writing a detailed six-page report. Several of the people involved, including the minister himself and the organizer of the raffle, refused to speak to the investigator or did not return calls. As a result, Clark was unable to confirm whether the transfer had taken place.
In a letter signed by Senior Deputy DA Bryan Brock, the Clackamas County district attorney said, in effect, there was nothing to prosecute. In part the letter read: “None of the witnesses nor documentary evidence obtained by Oregon State Police prove that an actual ‘transfer’ occurred. The suspect’s statement to the media that he gave it to someone for safe keeping is insufficient to prove that it did happen. Additionally the investigation fails to prove that even if the transfer did occur, that it was not to any of the permissible transferees. Without the name of the transferee in this case, I don’t think we could ever have a prosecutable case. Therefore I am declining prosecution for insufficient evidence.”
That’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion, given the facts. Giving or lending a friend a rifle should never be a crime. The law making it a crime should never have been passed. The investigation of this incident took plenty of legwork by an officer of the state police, already understaffed. Since the people directly involved in this case refused to talk, it also showed that the law cannot be enforced.
So-called universal background check laws are all the rage among progressive politicians. Will they realize, from this Oregon case, how useless but wasteful these laws are? Probably not. (hh)