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Oregon House OKs bill keeping guns from domestic abusers

 

SALEM — A gun bill making it easier for local law enforcement officials to confiscate firearms from convicted domestic abusers and people under restraining orders cleared the Legislature on Tuesday with bipartisan support.

The Oregon House advanced a measure echoing a federal law that bars people from keeping their firearms if they have been convicted of domestic violence or are under a restraining order that was upheld after a hearing. It passed 51-8 and now goes to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

Citing the danger of having firearms around someone convicted of domestic abuse, the measure's supporters argued there aren't enough federal agents in the state to actively enforce the federal version of the law. Passing the proposal would give local police more authority to implement that ban, they said.

“Just because a restraining order is in place does not mean victims are guaranteed protection from their abuser. If a weapon is within reach of an abuser, the risk of homicidal violence is extreme,” said Rep. Carla Piluso, a Gresham Democrat.

Piluso said the bill doesn't require local law enforcement to confiscate firearms from convicted domestic abusers. It just makes it a crime for the offenders to possess guns, she said.

But opponents said the legislation could put police in danger if they are sent out to remove firearms, adding it's asking for a gunfight.

“There comes a time when we ask people to do things that are basically a suicide mission,” said Rep. Carl Wilson, a Grants Pass Republican.

Others also questioned whether the proposal was necessary because there's already existing federal legislation. They disagreed with assertions that only federal agents are allowed to uphold federal laws. Keizer Republican Rep. Bill Post argued there's no state law prohibiting local law enforcement from upholding a federal ruling.

That question has come up several times as the bill made its way through the Legislature. A report by the Legislative Counsel said Oregon State Police, county sheriffs and municipal police officers “likely have the authority to arrest persons who violate federal firearm criminal laws.”

Salem Police Department Deputy Chief Steve Bellshaw said the issue is more complicated than that. He said local law enforcement officers can enforce federal law if they see a crime happen in their presence or if that person has a federal warrant out for their arrest. It does not, however, give them the ability to make an arrest on the basis of probable cause, and it's difficult to get local cases prosecuted in a federal court, he said.

“This bill would adopt federal law into state law so that these offenses could be prosecuted by the local district attorney in front of a local judge,” Bellshaw said.

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