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Previous story A proposed Oregon gun law could be the toughest in the United States Next story

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Tuesday April 20, 2021 - 9:19 AM

SALEM, Oregon - A vote by the Oregon legislature might be the toughest gun law in the United States.

A proposed gun storage law that would be among the toughest in the U.S. could be voted on as early as Monday in the Oregon Legislature; those for the law say it will save lives and those against say it could lead to deaths.

Hundreds of people have testified about the controversial law. Paul Kemp, including the brother-in-law of Steve Forsyth who was murdered with a stolen gun at a shopping mall in Portland back in 2012.

"I will never forget the screams I heard when we had to tell my teenage nephew that his father had been killed at the mall," Kemp said.

However, opponents say making people keep guns locked might waste precious moments if they need to defend themselves against armed intruders.

Jim Mischel, of Sheridan, Oregon, told how his wife was woken 1981 when she heard a noise. She saw that a man had broken into their home and returned to the bedroom in an attempt to get to a pistol that was in a locked gun box in the nightstand.

"She was unable to get the box unlocked and the pistol out before he got into the bedroom and threatened her with his gun," Mischel said. "She has never recovered."

The debate, in part seems to be comparing quick access to a gun, against keeping the gun locked away from children or those who should not have access.

The debate continues around the US with not much progress with gun control even as the number of mass shootings climbs again as the nation eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Massachusetts is the only state that requires that all unattended firearms to be stored with locking devices in place, according to the Giffords gun safety advocacy group. Penalties for violations can range from imprisonment to thousands of dollars in fines.

States that have passed laws requiring firearms safe storage include Connecticut, California, and New York.

Colorado is set to follow with a bill requiring unattended firearms to be stored securely passed this month and the governor is expected to sign.

The law would create the offense of unlawful storage of a firearm if the gun owner knows that a child could access the gun without permission or if someone in the house is not allowed to possess a firearm.

Tensions are running high as the Oregon Legislature considers this and other gun bills, even leading to death threats.

Recently, six Republican state senators stayed for a vote on a different firearms bill, instead of doing a walkout in what has become a tactic for them to prevent a vote from taking place. That bill would ban guns from the Capitol and other state buildings and allow local jurisdictions to decide whether people with a concealed handgun license can bring guns into public buildings.

They voted "nay" on the bill instead of joining a GOP boycott to deny a quorum. All six GOP senators who stayed got threatening emails. They have been turned over to the Oregon State Police for investigation

"You should be shot," said one of the emails.

Advocates for the gun storage bill have said it would reduce suicides. Anderman said putting anything between a person's impulse to take their own life and a gun could give the person a moment to reconsider.

Elizabeth Klein testified in favor of the bill "on behalf of my deceased brother," who killed himself with a gun.

"My family is devastated by my brother's gun suicide. It always seems preventable to me," Klein wrote.

Safe storage could also reduce school shootings. Minors who commit those attacks often obtain the gun from their home or the home of a relative or friend.

Opponents have said the bill is an infringement on the constitutional right to bear arms.

"As usual, the Second Amendment is under attack because attacking it is a perennial favorite with Democrats and has been for years," said James Purvine of Eugene, Oregon, who testified in writing to the House Committee on Health Care about the bill.

The committee approved the bill, sending it to the House floor for Monday's vote.