Oregonian: Brown, Buehler far apart on gun control

Hillary Borrud The Oregonian/OregonLive   August 22, 2018

Gun control is a top political issue in Oregon, and one on which Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and her Republican challenger, Rep. Knute Buehler, differ widely.

The Oregon Legislature has signed off on significant gun regulations in three of the last four sessions. It expanded background checks, barred domestic abusers from owning guns and created a process to seize firearms from people who may harm themselves or others. Brown signed all of those bills; Buehler voted for half of them.

Brown’s gun control record earned her the backing of New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who donated $250,000 to her 2016 gubernatorial campaign after she announced she’d work to pass three weapons bills, including one that would ban high-capacity magazines.

The governor delivered on one of those promised laws this year, when she got the Legislature to close the “boyfriend loophole,” a technicality that left some intimate partners out of Oregon’s existing domestic abuser gun ban. Buehler was one of three House Republicans who voted for the bill, which secured a vote the day after a school shooting left 17 dead in Florida.

“I understand and appreciate Oregon’s long tradition of gun ownership for self-protection and recreation,” Buehler said last week. “I’ve also broken from my party. … I feel strongly that survivors of domestic abuse, women and children, shouldn’t live in fear from their abuser.”

Brown had been in office seven months when a gunman killed nine people and injured eight more at Umpqua Community College. She refers to the mass shooting near Roseburg as a formative experience.

“We must use every single tool that we have to ensure that our students’ campuses are safe,” she said.

In 2015, Brown signed Oregon’s original gun ban for domestic abusers and a law that expanded background checks to all gun sales. A third measure she approved, allowing a judge to take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others through so-called “extreme risk protection” orders, was written by Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas.

Buehler voted against the background check expansion and extreme risk protection orders, citing concerns the protection orders didn’t provide adequate due process to gun owners. He voted for the initial law banning guns and ammunition for domestic abusers in 2015.

Earlier this year, Portland-area clergy attempted unsuccessfully to get an initiative on the ballot that would have defined many semiautomatic guns as assault weapons and banned their sale in Oregon. Another group, including family members of the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting victims, tried to qualify an initiative that would have required gun owners to secure the weapons with trigger locks or other devices. It also ran out of time to qualify. Now, activists hope the Legislature will consider those ideas next year.

Brown said in an opinion article on InStyle. com earlier this year that she supports a ban on “military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” However, when asked for details about her position, Brown said she’s looking to Washington to pass the ban. “If Congress doesn’t take action, then Oregon does, it needs to,” Brown said. She would not say how long she’s willing to wait.

So, if lawmakers were to pass an assault weapons sales ban in 2019 that mirrors this year’s failed initiative, would Brown sign it into law?

“I’d have to review the language but probably I would, yes,” Brown said.

Buehler said he is firmly against a ban on the sale of assault weapons as defined under Initiative Petition 43. “It’s too broad and too difficult to enforce with so many of those guns already on the streets and in the hands of Oregonians,” he said.

Buehler listed several other gun safety regulations he would support.

“I’m certainly for common sense gun legislation, such as banning bump stocks, restricting those under 21 from not buying assault weapons and a three-day waiting period on hand gun purchases,” he said. “Those kinds of laws would make a difference, and have in other places, to decrease gun related violence.”

Brown said she will ask the Legislature in 2019 to pass a bump stock ban and prohibition on the sale of assault weapons to anyone younger than 21. The governor said she also will ask the Legislature to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows a gun sale to go through if a background check is not completed within three days, plus other gun proposals being discussed by law enforcement, gun owners and gun safety advocates.