SALEM — The massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday has pushed gun control in Oregon back to the top of the stack of issues facing Gov. Kate Brown and the GOP front-runner to replace her, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend.
On Monday, 59 people were killed and more than 520 were wounded or injured when a lone gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino opened fire on a packed open air country music concert across Las Vegas Boulevard. Police say the shooter, Stephen Paddock, used a semi-automatic rifle fitted with a legal, commercially available “bump fire stock” that uses a rifle’s recoil to speed the next shot. Police believe Paddock shot himself when he thought police were close to entering his spacious Vista Suite at the hotel.
The Bulletin asked both Brown and Buehler if they believed gun laws of any kind could stem the kind of carnage seen in Las Vegas and other mass-shootings, including the 2015 killing of nine people at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg.
Both Brown and Buehler called the Las Vegas shootings a “tragedy” and thanked first responders for saving as many lives as they could. But on the ability of legislation to stem future gun violence, their views diverged.
“This was the largest and deadliest mass shooting in modern American history,” Brown said in an email. “It should be a moment of reckoning. For years, the NRA and their allies have pushed a ‘guns everywhere’ agenda. Too many politicians try to appease the mourners but then side with the NRA. But Oregonians expect straight talk and clear answers from their elected leaders.”
Brown said she was proud to have supported stringent background checks, and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
“I’ll continue to stand up for stronger gun safety laws in order to make our communities safer by keeping guns out of dangerous hands,” she said.
Buehler was pessimistic that there is a legislative answer to gun violence.
“I understand the instinct to turn to new laws to prevent mass shootings,” Buehler said in an email. “I will keep an open-mind to ideas that enhance public safety while respecting the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Buehler said he supports improving community mental health care to help people before they become violent or suicidal. He also wants to strengthen enforcement of laws that bar criminals from possessing guns.
But Buehler said he believed mass murder would continue with or without new legislation.
“Unfortunately, evil exists in our world and deranged madmen won’t be deterred by another new law no matter how well-intended,” Buehler said.
The differences between Buehler and Brown were underlined by their stands on Senate Bill 719, a bill that creates a process for obtaining an extreme risk protection order prohibiting a person from possessing deadly weapons when a court finds that person presents risk in the near future, including imminent risk, of suicide or causing injury to another person. A judge could then order law enforcement officers to temporarily remove — opponents prefer “confiscate” — any firearms in their possession.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, whose 31-year-old stepson was known to be suicidal and used a gun to kill himself. The bill narrowly passed the House and Senate. Buehler voted against the bill, while Brown signed it into law.
Opponents are attempting to gather signatures to send the law to a referendum next year. If enough signatures are gathered, the law would be put on hold until the vote.
Buehler said he supports the referendum drive and opposes the law.
“I believe it lacks fair due process, puts law enforcement officers in a difficult position and infringes on the rights of Oregonians to own firearms for protection and recreation,” Buehler said.
Brown believes the bill is a way to stop gun violence, both suicides and homicides.
“I was proud to sign the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill which will keep deadly weapons out of the hands of Oregonians at risk of doing harm to themselves or others,” Brown said. “I stand by my support for this law.”
— Reporter: 541-525-5280, firstname.lastname@example.org .