Editorial: Proposed gun control legislation seems to do little

Oregon state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, is back at it. When the Legislature convenes next month, he plans to introduce a bill to expand background checks on gun purchasers.

Prozanski supported a similar proposal in 2013. Like the other three gun-control measures before lawmakers last year, it went nowhere.

Currently, Oregon requires background checks on those who purchase guns at gun shows and from gun dealers. Prozanski’s bill would expand that requirement to all gun sales — except those between family members.

Thus, private-party sales arranged through newspaper advertisements or online would have to include background checks on purchasers.

The checks themselves are relatively simple to obtain — the state police operate the Firearms Instant Check System that checks potential purchasers’ backgrounds for $10 a pop. The system operates from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas and can be reached by telephone.

All of that sounds good, no doubt. No one wants to allow convicted criminals or those with mental problems to own guns, after all.

In reality, however, enforcing a dramatically expanded background check law is likely to be an exercise in futility.

Police agencies are not currently equipped to track sales offers in newspapers and on the Internet. Unless they do so, it’s unlikely they’ll know someone failed to get the required background check. This change is also unlikely to do anything to stop criminals.

Prozanski, meanwhile, believes he can get the votes in the Senate to push the bill through. That, too, is questionable in a body that has 14 Republicans to 16 Democrats, some of whom have been hostile to similar measures.

Until Prozanski is able to offer clear proof that expanded checks would cut gun violence, the idea of expanding background checks is a shaky one.

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