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Governor renews push for closing gun loopholes in 2018

It's unclear the Legislature will pass the measures in the upcoming short session.

CAPITAL BUREAU - Gov. Kate BrownSALEM — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown renewed a push to tighten state laws restricting gun ownership Friday.

Days after a deadly shooting in Las Vegas that took 58 lives and injured hundreds, Brown called on Oregon lawmakers to "put politics aside" and pass two proposals that failed in the 2017 legislative session.

But it's not apparent what will change lawmakers' minds in the upcoming 35-day legislative session, which is due to begin Feb. 1, 2018.

One proposal, according to the Governor's Office, would prevent a person from purchasing a firearm "unless and until" Oregon State Police verify they are eligible to do so. As it stands, people in Oregon can still purchase a gun without background check if OSP doesn't verify them in 72 hours. This often called the "Charleston loophole," after the shooter in the Charleston church killings was able to purchase his gun in this manner.

Another would expand the types of relationships that qualify for gun dispossession after a domestic violence conviction, which would close what is often called the "boyfriend" or "dating partner" loophole.

The governor's proposal would also prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from buying firearms.

"I look forward to working with the Legislature to finish what we started last session and close the Charleston and boyfriend loopholes for good," Brown said in a written statement to the press Friday morning. "These policies will keep guns out of the wrong hands and help keep our promise to families across the state to keep our communities safe."

Brown, a Democrat, is running for reelection in 2018.

Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, indicated her support for the governor's proposals Friday.

"For the safety of every Oregonian, it is vital that we ensure guns do not end up in the hands of individuals who would do harm to themselves or others," Wiliamson said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to working with Gov. Brown in the coming months to close the Charleston and boyfriend loopholes."

A spokesman for Williamson said she was "out of pocket" and unavailable to comment Friday on the viability of the legislation in the upcoming short session, or why it failed in 2017.

A spokesman for Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, did not respond to requests seeking comment about why the legislation did not pass in 2017.

State Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, a leading advocate for gun control, was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon, a spokesman said.

Burdick told Oregon Public Broadcasting on Friday that "we should be aiming for bills that have broad bipartisan support," but that she would vote for the proposals if they reached the Senate floor.

Penny Okamoto, executive director of CeaseFire Oregon, a group that advocates for stricter standards for gun ownership and gun safety, said it wasn't clear to her why the legislation did not pass in 2017.

"I could not tell you why a Democratic governor's priority could not get through a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate," Okamoto said Friday. Democrats hold the majority in both chambers.

In the 2017 session, which concluded in July, lawmakers passed a bill that created a process for temporarily taking firearms away from people who were at risk of committing suicide.

Despite passing both chambers, it was not without objection.

Two Republican lawmakers sought to refer the legislation to the ballot, but announced Thursday they had not gathered sufficient signatures in time for the Secretary of State's deadline.

Brown's main challenger, State Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, was quoted in The Bulletin — the paper of record in Bend ­— this week saying that "deranged madmen won't be deterred by another new law no matter how well-intended."

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