Mary Starrett - N-R Jan. 30 gun rights editorial really missed the mark

The News-Register’s editorial of Jan 30, concerning the recently enacted county resolution opposing the expansion of Oregon’s failed background check system, is puzzling, misleading and inaccurate.

It refers to the proposed background check legislation as “a modest little measure that would merely extend instant background check requirements, which voters enacted 15 years ago for gun shop and gun show sales, to private party sales.”

First of all, the measure is anything but modest since it would require lifetime friends and many family members to ask police permission to “transfer” a firearm to one another.

A similar measure proposed in 2013 would have allowed you to transfer to your child but not your nephew. The measure proposed in 2014 would have allowed you to transfer to a nephew, but would have forbidden a transfer back to an uncle.

Oregon’s legislative council, which drafts the bills, explains that it would be illegal, without conducting a background check, to leave a gun with your live-in girlfriend for her protection if you were out of town, no matter how qualified she was to have it. And she would have to conduct one on you when she returned it.

The Washington measure that recently passed by ballot made it a crime for students at hunter safety classes to hand rifles to each other.

It’s also misleading to call the check “instant.” Just ask the countless people who are delayed, often for months, sometimes far longer, because the Oregon State Police database is so faulty.

A quick look at the numbers provided by the OSP themselves, available to the News-Register anytime they want to do an honest investigation of the facts, will demonstrate that the overwhelming number of people who are denied should not be.

While those people are waiting for the OSP to sort out their bad data, their rights are denied. For some, this is an aggravation, for others it could be life-threatening.

It is very odd that the News-Register would write the following: “The aim of background checks is to make it more difficult for felons, fugitives, undocumented immigrants, domestic abusers, the under-aged and the mentally ill to acquire firearms, and impossible for them to acquire firearms legally.” It is, of course, already impossible for those people to acquire firearms legally.

The editorial continues, “But in fact, state and federal constitutional rights are all subject to checks, balances and regulation. No right in America is absolute.”

This is a troubling assertion from a newspaper. The fact is, our rights are absolute, unless and until we violate the law. This kind of prior restraint would be analogous to denying the editors of the News-Register the right to publish an editorial until it had been approved by the Oregon State Police because it “might” be libelous.

Editor’s note: The bill has not been introduced in the Oregon Legislature; at this time, it is impossible to determine which provisions it will include.

Guest writer Mary Starrett is a member of the Yamhill County Baord of Commisisoners.