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Oregon committee OKs more background checks on firearm sales

By SHEILA V KUMAR
Of the Associated Press

SALEM — Despite several attempts by Oregon Republican lawmakers Thursday to derail legislation expanding background checks on gun sales, the proposal will be getting a full House vote.

In a 5-4 party-line vote, Democrats on the House Rules Committee narrowly approved a bill requiring background checks for nearly all private firearm sales.

The proposal has been flying through the Legislature after being introduced in late March, in part because last year's election saw Democrats cement their majorities in both chambers. Two previous attempts to pass similar legislation failed in the Senate.

If the bill passes, nearly all gun sales and transfers between people who aren't closely related would have to take place in front of a licensed gun dealer. The gun dealer would then, for a fee, do a background check through the Oregon State Police. There are exemptions for buyers and sellers who live more than 40 miles from each other and for certain temporary transfers, such as loaning a gun to a friend while hunting.

During a marathon hearing on the proposal Wednesday, backers of the measure said it's needed to close a gap in the system that allows people to buy guns online without a background check. Others argued it was a “reasonable step” toward keeping firearms out of the hands of felons and criminals.

Federal law requires background checks for firearms purchased from licensed dealers. Oregon law already goes further by mandating background checks on private sales at gun shows under an initiative approved by voters in 2000. Proponents say the use of the Internet to purchase firearms created a “loophole” for people to bypass the background check system that wasn't anticipated back then.

“We still need to close the loopholes. Criminals, as was noted, are still going to attempt to purchase guns. Right now if they can't go through the traditional means they go to private sales, online markets, to gain access to these guns,” said Rep. Dan Rayfield, a Corvallis Democrat.

Critics said background checks aren't effective or enforceable. The legislation infringes on their Second Amendment rights and would fail to prevent any gun violence because criminals will turn to the black market or thievery to get a firearm, opponents said.

Silverton Republican Rep. Vic Gilliam said the bill wouldn't close the loophole because it implies there is a simple solution to a large problem.

“This bill may have had good intentions, it may have been aimed at criminals. I believe it misfires and hurts the very people we depend on — law-abiding, gun-carrying citizens,” said Gilliam.

The bill has already passed the Senate and could come up in the House as soon as next week.

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