What’s in the legislation

The amendment to Senate Bill 1543 says:

(1) A person commits the crime of threatening to commit a terroristic act if:

(a) The person subjects another to fear or terror by conveying a threat to cause a mass casualty event;

(b) The person expresses the intent to carry out the threat; and

(c) A reasonable person would:

(A) Be placed in fear or terror by the threat; and

(B) Believe that the threat was likely to be carried out.

(2) Threatening to commit a terroristic act is a Class A misdemeanor.

(3) As used in this section, ‘mass casualty event’ means a violent act that results in extraordinary levels of death or physical injury to other persons.

Source: Oregon Legislative Information Service

SALEM — Threatening to commit a terroristic act would be a felony under new legislative action scheduled to be considered Tuesday.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, drafted an amendment to an existing bill, Senate Bill 1543, that would add the change to Oregon’s criminal statute. At his request, the action was proposed as an immediate amendment to an existing criminal justice bill before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill is scheduled for a work session at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The Legislature is in the fourth week of a five-week session, too late for an entirely new bill to be introduced.

The action came just hours after a request for legislative action was made by Bend-La Pine Schools.

Parents were asked to contact lawmakers and request action.

“In the days after the horrific events at Parkland high school in Florida, Oregon experienced an upswell of violent, terroristic threats targeting schools and communities across the state,” Knopp said. “Oregon’s district attorneys are constrained by current law that fails to take into account the unique nature of threats against schools and other public gathering places. Creating a new statute to address these circumstances will go a long way in deterring future threats and punishing individuals (who) threaten the well being of our kids, families and communities.”

In addition to the school district, the amendment is supported by Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Bend Police Chief Jim Porter.

If approved, the bill as amended would go to the House for a vote, then back to the Senate for reconsideration with the amendment.

Knopp said there is “a gap” in Oregon law as it relates to people who make threats to cause mass casualties.

“If an individual makes a threat but does not take observable steps to carry out the threat, prosecutors struggle to find a statute that fits,” Knopp said. “In these cases, DAs must look to menacing, disorderly conduct, and harassment charges in order to prosecute threatening individuals, and this only allows misdemeanor charges.”

Knopp said his proposed amendment is similar to existing laws in other states. It would criminalize making a terroristic threat, which Knopp said is the threat to commit a crime that will result in great bodily harm, regardless of whether the person intended to carry out the threat. Changing the law would help prosecutors charge individuals who don’t fall under disorderly conduct, menacing or harassment statues, and would create a criminal penalty commensurate with the harm caused by such a threat.

In a “call to action” email sent to parents Monday, Bend-La Pine Superintendent Shay Mikalson urged parents to immediately lobby for legislative action.

“By acting together, we can exponentially increase our positive impact as we continue to advocate for the safe learning environments our students and staff deserve,” he said. “Please join me in urging our elected official to create new laws that immediately help to improve school and community safety throughout Oregon. Our elected officials are receiving many big asks right now, so I have identified three that I believe are easy to implement now, during their short session.”

Mikalson said he was asking lawmakers to:

• Create a new crime in Oregon of terroristic threat at a felony level.

• Fund teams to provide threat assessments to youth in crisis.

• Extend maximum detention from 36 hours to 10 days for misdemeanor charges filed against youth with weapons offenses or who have made threats against others.

In his letter, Mikalson also asked parents to secure weapons and pills they keep in their homes so that minors will not have access to them. He suggested that any parent that is concerned about his or her child’s behavior should be proactive.

The school district and Bend Police investigated four threats of school violence over nine days at three schools, including an alleged shooting plan at Bend High School last week. A 16-year-old student is in custody on a disorderly conduct charge over that alleged threat. The other threats were not deemed credible.

Mikalson noted that the Bend Police Department is offering free cable locks for locking up weapons in homes, offices and vehicles.

“On average, in Bend alone, at least one weapon is stolen out of an unlocked vehicle each week,” Mikalson said.

Mikalson said the school district was taking other steps to minimize the likelihood of an attack on Bend-area schools by a person with a gun.

A May construction bond will pay for renovations to secure the lobbies of schools. Mikalson said that will now happen on an expedited timeline. He also outlined plans to increase the visibility of visitor access, add and train staff for counseling, and work with law enforcement on incident response protocols.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com