If you have read the entire text of proposed Senate Bill 941 and the statutes it proposes to amend, you might correctly conclude the devil is in the details. Lots of details that are very hard to figure out — intentionally. I’d like to first state something obvious that legislators choose to ignore: Laws cannot prevent criminal behavior. Were this so there would be no crime.
Designed for popular consumption, ostensibly to close the “gun show loophole,” SB 941 is a copycat of the feel-good law recently passed in Washington state with backing of anti-Second Amendment billionaire ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Its purpose has nothing to do with the buzz phrases, “enhancing public safety,” or “crime prevention,” nor will it have any measurable effect in these areas. It has everything to do with incrementally making legal firearm ownership, use and transfer, even within your immediate family, by any means more onerous and costly while building a database of everyone who legally owns a firearm. It sets up a structure, similar to those in other gun-unfriendly states, that can be and is applied and abused by government authorities with the result (if not intent) of deterring and criminalizing legitimate ownership and ordinary uses of firearms by honest citizens. Criminals, of course, need not be concerned.
Example: Let’s say your daughter, who lives across town, wants to go to the range to keep up her shooting skills and you loan her your legally owned rifle. SB 941 Section 2 (a) (A) generously allows this as a “temporary transfer” without the delay and cost otherwise required for criminal background checks. So what’s the problem? Just that nowhere in SB 941 is there a definition of the time period of “temporary” or reference to what agency can tell you what that might be for a given situation. Suppose your daughter keeps your rifle at her house for a few days but has the misfortune of having its address mistakenly entered as that of a known felon seen fleeing a crime scene. The police search her house, she is arrested for illegal possession of a firearm and you are arrested for loaning her yours beyond a reasonable period per a court’s subjective interpretation of “temporary provision of a firearm to a transferee …”
That would never happen, you say. The police and courts would never be that unreasonable. Well, welcome to New Jersey where I lived for some time, where the laws, if not worded exactly as I quote SB 941, were similar to worse. It happened to a neighbor in my apartment building. Actually, they were lucky and, with a good lawyer, got off with fines and hefty legal fees but still had criminal records preventing them from ever legally owning firearms. Another neighbor at that time told me that a temporary police permit was actually required to even transport a firearm to a shooting range! Hey, that could be next as a tweak to SB 941, helping us all to be safer.
So, do you honestly believe the heavily financed legal minds that drafted the Washington state law, of which SB 941 is a clone, aren’t aware of the subjectivity and probability for incremental, punitive interpretation of SB 941? How about the anti-gun legislators in Salem rushing this bill to a vote with as little time for review as possible? Haven’t we seen this despicable behavior too much lately? This is the “camel’s nose under the tent” stealth approach of deceitful politicians when honesty and truth simply wouldn’t fly. They count on what was recently quoted as, “the stupidity of the American voter,” when their intent is to control all of us. For our own good, of course.
Defeat SB 941, or at least table it pending review and clarification.
— Stephen Clark lives in Bend.