By editorial board • 

Now is not the time for another gun bill

Anyone who thinks Oregon is a blue state should scan the outrage expressed over a timid gun law proposal introduced as House Bill 4005.

The testimony served as a reminder that Oregon is a liberal state only because Portland represents 60% of its population, with a boost from Eugene and Corvallis.

Many rural residents turned a particularly vibrant shade of red during a hearing last Friday, at the thought they might have to secure their firearms with trigger or cable locks and keep them in locked containers or gun rooms. From the tenor of the opposition, one would think lawmakers planned to turn the nuclear launch codes over to Barbara Streisand.

Voices from Yamhill County were particularly vociferous, including those of County Commissioner Mary Starrett and her brother, Kevin Starrett, leader of the Oregon Firearms Federation.

The opposition narrative seemed to be that keeping firearms under lock enables the bad guys to get the drop. While you’re fumbling around for your keys, they’re wreaking carnage as they wish.

This hearkens back to old saw that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Of course, that would actually save a lot of lives, as you are far more likely to be killed by an enraged but otherwise law-abiding citizen than a home intruder harboring ill intent.

The real gun-toting menace you need to look out for is yourself.

Every year, about 100 American homicides stem from burglary attempts gone bad, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. That compares to 500 deaths due to negligent discharge of a firearm and 21,000 suicides by gunshot.

Statistics on gun deaths can be imprecise. But even if you quibble with the exact totals, the disparities here are still jarring.

Despite those statistics and the intentions to reverse them, we oppose this bill — for now, anyway. Oregon’s brief, even-year session is ill-suited to railroading through such a controversial and divisive piece of legislation.

It’s no time for the state’s dominant Democrats to throw their political weight around. As we — and many others — continue to preach, the short session is a time for housekeeping measures and fixing accounting problems. We should save the drama for next year’s regular session.

Sure, gun violence is an immediate problem. But the chances of getting any meaningful legislation passed in the next couple of weeks borders on the nonexistent. All House Bill 4005 does is raise rural blood pressure.

Because of America’s psychological fixation on guns, firearms bills keep getting watered down until they are virtually meaningless. And this bill is already virtually meaningless.

Lawmakers might as well ask people to take a pledge not to gun one another down in the street. Of course, even that would probably be decried as a violation of a basic American freedom.

A discussion on how to increase gun safety and decrease gun deaths is still worth having. As long as people continue to die by discharged bullets, it’s always worth having.

However, it can wait for another year. Legislators will have ample opportunity then to begin banging their heads against that wall again.


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