In two-minute turns Friday, more than two dozen citizens staked out their views on legislation that would require Oregonians to keep their firearms under lock or face penalties.
They appeared before the House Judiciary Committee over three hours, speaking on House Bill 4005.
Before that testimony, the bill’s sponsors Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, Rep. Rachel Prusak, D-West Linn, and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, took a moment to explain.
“Unsecured firearm storage is an important contributor to access and is especially dangerous to children,” Sollman told the committee. “We need protections for youth and for those in mental crisis, and we need to keep firearms out of the hands of unauthorized users.”
The legislation would require gun owners to secure their firearms with a trigger or cable lock, in a locked container such a safe or gun room. Violators could be fined up to $500.
A minor with a gun that was found to be unsecured could prompt a $2,000 fine for the gun’s owner who could also be held liable for an unsecured firearm that causes injury or property damage with some exceptions.
Under the legislation, gun owners would be required to report to police within 72 hours of finding their firearm has been lost or stolen. The Oregon Health Authority would establish regulations for trigger locks and storage.
Testimony was evenly split between those for and against the bill, including impassioned presentations of their experience with gun violence, home invasion, assault, losing a loved one and fear for personal safety.
Among the first witnesses was Paul Kemp, whose brother-in-law Steve Forsyth was one of the three killed in the Clackamas Town Center shooting in 2012. The shooter in that event had stolen the firearm he used from an acquaintance. The bill is named for the victims.
Kemp recounted notifying his nephew that his father had died in the incident, and how he hopes no one else has to shoulder that duty.
“The circumstances that allowed the Clackamas Town Center mall shooting years ago will finally be addressed by the 2020 Legislature with passage of HB 4005,” Kemp said. “My sister and I learned (after the event) the owner of those guns had no obligation under Oregon law to report them as stolen. In fact, the legal gun owner did not call the police until the mall shooting was national news that afternoon.”
Kemp and others cited numbers showing that suicides involving firearms in the U.S. have increased by 19% over the past decade, that in Oregon, 82% of gun deaths are suicides, and that less than 5% of suicide attempts without a gun result in death.
According to Ben Hoffman, a pediatrician and an expert on child injury at the Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon’s rate of suicide for children and teens is 34% higher than the rest of the country, and that in the last five years, the rate has increased by 50%.
Klamath County resident Scott DeCarlo said he’s saddened by statistics, but told legislators that doesn’t give the Legislature the right to infringe on his Second Amendment right.
“I’m definitely sorry that some children have taken their lives. That’s awful, but statistically, the number is quite small,” DeCarlo said.
“We should not be having this hearing,” he continued. “We have no right to do this. It’s ludicrous to think that when I fall asleep, technically, that gun is no longer under my control, so I have to lock it. So, somebody kicks in my door in the middle of the night, I’m supposed to lock my firearm up when I’m supposed to be safe in my home?”
Rabbi Michael Cahana, representing the interfaith nonprofit Lift Every Voice Oregon, pointed out that there are no more safe spaces with the proliferation of firearms in America today.
“There are no safe spaces in malls, in schools, as we’ve heard, and religious institutions as well, are under threat,” Cahana said.
“The safe storage of owned weapons is something we should all be able to unite behind. We stand strongly behind this bill and urge its moving forward.”
A work session is scheduled for the bill Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. It’s expected that amendments to the bill, including clarifications on situations in which the owner of a firearm may or may not be held liable, will subject to public testimony.