Our Oregon legislature did not accomplish much during the short session that ended Friday, but its main achievement lies in what it did not do. Among the things it did not do was to enact Senate Bill 1551, requiring private sellers of firearms to obtain background checks on the would-be buyers.
The bill failed to go to a vote in the Senate because it did not have the votes to pass, and it did not have the votes because there was no compelling or even plausible reason for it. Background checks already are required for firearm purchases from licensed dealers as well as from anyone at gun shows. The backers of this additional proposed requirement had no data showing how many sales it would affect, how many sales to possibly ineligible buyers it would prevent, or how many innocent citizens would be turned into potential criminals because of inadvertent noncompliance with the bureaucracy of background checks.
All the backers had were assumptions and emotions. They assumed that criminals were buying guns from private sellers and that if they could not do so, they would go without. But they had no inkling at all on whether this was actually so. It was a bill without a reason. So the Senate was wise to let it die.
But it didn’t die by much. Similar legislation in 2013 likely would have passed the House and failed only because it lacked a single member’s vote in the Senate. That’s why on this front as well as others, the consequences would be profound if the minority party in the Senate lost even one member in the election this fall. (hh)