A marathon public hearing will kick off this afternoon in Salem as legions of gun owners are expected to descend on the Oregon state capitol to oppose a controversial gun control measure, disguised as a “universal background check” bill that one Republican state senator has said flatly will not accomplish a thing.
Senate Bill 941 has already passed the Senate, but according to the Portland Oregonian, House leaders have scheduled a “patience-testing eight-and-one-half hour” public hearing starting at 1 p.m. with public testimony slated to begin at 3 o’clock. The session is scheduled to continue until 10 p.m., and the National Rifle Association has alerted its Beaver State members to attend.
Calling SB 941 an “egregious bill,” the NRA advises that public statements will be limited to two minutes. One can guess that there will be several people from gun prohibition lobbying groups appearing to support the bill.
Writing in an Op-Ed April 17 for the Oregonian, State Sen. Betsy Johnson noted, “What everybody wants, though, is to keep guns out of the wrong hands. There is no law that can do that. None. Even outright confiscation and a ban won’t keep guns out of the wrong hands. Any politician who tells you otherwise is either lying or desperate to look like he or she is doing something. The brutal truth is that too many of my colleagues don’t want to acknowledge that mistakes have been made.”
State Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), the House Republican leader, issued a statement Monday, urging people to attend. He is a member of the House Committee on Rules. Likewise, the activist Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF) appealed to its grassroots membership to oppose what it calls a “mandatory gun owner registration bill.”
“The Senate’s decision to hold just one two-hour public hearing on SB 941 left many Oregonians, including those who traveled long distances, without an opportunity to testify on this significant piece of legislation,” McLane said. “I invite those Oregonians to come back this week to testify, and I encourage all Oregonians to attend Wednesday’s public hearing and participate in this important discussion going on in our Legislature.”
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel has already said that if the legislation passes, enforcement will be very low on his list of priorities. Other Oregon lawmen have not been quite that vocal, but his attitude is reflective of fellow sheriffs in neighboring Washington, and down in Colorado, and back in New York; all states that have adopted onerous gun control laws over the past couple of years. The Washington law is being challenged in federal court by the Second Amendment Foundation and other groups and individual citizens.
While it is questionable whether this long hearing will produce any testimony to sway the majority Democrats to reject the measure, it will give Oregon gun owners an opportunity to tell lawmakers what they believe is wrong with the bill. Already, three recall efforts have been launched against a trio of Democrat supporters including House Majority Leader Val Hoyle of Eugene.
Hoyle, it should be noted, was behind scheduling the long public hearing, the Oregonian indicated, in response to complaints from Republicans that the public had “scant opportunity” to testify on the bill before the Senate. Hoyle’s companions in the recall bull’s eye are Rep. Susan McLain of Forest Grove and freshman Sen. Chuck Riley, who might not be in office had there not been a third party candidate in that race, draining votes from incumbent Republican Sen. Bruce Starr.
Yesterday, Examiner spoke with Norm Voshall, one of the people involved in the grassroots effort to unseat Riley. The Hillsboro gun dealer plans to be in Salem today to oppose the gun control bill, which is similar to Initiative 594, passed by Washington voters last fall after a contentious multi-million dollar campaign heavily financed by Seattle-area billionaire elitists, and Michael Bloomberg’s $50 million anti-gun lobbying group, Everytown for Gun Safety.
In her scathing criticism of SB 941 in the Oregonian, Sen. Johnson identified what she called are “major loopholes” that the bill will not touch. Among them, she criticized the legislature’s “failure to restrict the freedom of dangerous felons,” and she singled out SB 941 sponsor Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) for having tried unsuccessfully two years ago to “include weaker sentencing guidelines for assault, robbery and sexual abuse in House Bill 3194.”
“He wanted the bill to also expand expungement,” Sen. Johnson asserted, “making it easier for convicted felons to wipe clean their criminal records. Prozanski has promised to revisit this issue. What good does it do to pass a law requiring more background checks for gun sales if you’re trying to make it easier for felons to lie about their criminal histories?”
This is essentially the same argument Johnson made in another Op-Ed, published several days ago in the Tillamook County Pioneer, in which she also ripped Prozanski’s record. Johnson’s articles could easily be taken as the sign of a real feud between the two on the issues of guns and crime.
During today’s hearing, gun owners will be cautioned against making the issue personal, and to keep their remarks on topic and concise. This could be a standing-room-only event, especially in the early hours. The hearing will be held in Hearing Room 50, according to the NRA alert. OFF says there will be a dinner recess at 5:30 p.m.
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