SALEM — The Oregon House moved Tuesday to close a loophole that allowed domestic abusers to illegally hold onto their firearms.
Lawmakers voted 43-15 in favor of stronger enforcement mechanisms for a 2015 bill that prevents those with domestic violence or stalking convictions from carrying firearms.
House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, who sponsored the measure, said that although the 2015 bill banned domestic abusers from owning guns, that law didn’t lay out exactly how courts would take away those firearms. Some domestic abusers were able to hold onto their weapons by avoiding court hearings.
Williamson’s proposal would mandate domestic abusers submit a notice to the court that they have dispossessed themselves of their weapons, otherwise they’ll be charged with contempt. The Democrat from Portland said extra enforcement mechanisms are necessary because “firearms and domestic violence are a deadly combination.”
At least 32 people died in domestic violence related incidents in 2017, according to Oregon Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. Of those, 19 were killed by firearms. Nationally, women are five times more likely to be killed when their abusers have access to a gun, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“Behind those numbers are people’s lives who were cut short because their abusers had easy access to firearms,” said Williamson.
The measure details exactly how abusers would turn over their firearms and gives them 24 hours to dispossess themselves of weapons following a court order. It would also require law enforcement to notify domestic assault survivors when their abusers are set to get their weapons back. Abusers can have their guns taken away for up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the crime.
Senate Minority Leader Carl Wilson, from Grants Pass, said the measure is another example of government overreach and that this matter should be left to local communities. He added that many courts are already implementing some of the provisions laid out in the bill.
The proposal now goes to the Senate for consideration. Gov. Kate Brown signaled her support for the move at a public hearing earlier this month.
“We all know that while mass shootings make headlines, it is all too common that gun violence occurs behind closed doors,” she said.
This is the first of two gun control measures Oregon lawmakers are considering this year. Legislators are also taking up a sweeping gun control package that, among other things, requires gun owners to safely store their firearms when not in use.