Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Pro-Gun, *Pro-Criminal* Response to Oregon's Background Check Bill

(UPDATED -- See below)

Back on May 11, Oregon's new background check bill (SB941) was signed by the Governor.  At last, every gun purchase and transfer in Oregon must require a background check, including private sales.  

No longer will felons, the dangerously mentally-ill, wife-beaters, minors, or any other prohibited person be able to purchase a gun simply by answering an ad, meeting someone in a parking lot, and paying cash, with no background check.  The seller, too, will be held accountable, and will no longer be able to simply claim ignorance.

Prior to that, according to a report put out by Everytown for Gun Safety, of the people seeking guns in unlicensed, online sales in Oregon, 1 in 18 were barred from owning guns by state or federal law. At this rate, unlicensed sellers in these markets could transfer 1,360 guns to criminals each year.

But the pro-gun forces did their darndest to make sure that the criminals could keep getting away with it!  They employed every trick they could, including false claims that this would lead to gun confiscation and registration and lying about the intent of the bill.  They are now going out of their way to tell the world that they will openly defy the law or, in the case of a few sheriffs and commissioners, refuse to enforce the law.

In short, they are pro-criminal.

That's right.  Pro-gun advocates are pro-criminal and want to break the law. 

Don't believe me?  See it in their own words...

The extremist Oregon Firearms Federation, headed by Kevin Starrett, has worked for many years to undermine background checks, attempting to weaken them by writing bills to remove the State Police from monitoring them, and thinks they are no different than gun registration.  So you can imagine Starrett's outrage when SB941 passed.  After the bill was signed by the Governor, Starrett wrote in an alert to his followers (bolding included), 

"We urge you to defy this sinister attack on your rights. We urge you to refuse to comply." ... "My friends, this battle has only just begun. Don't despair. Subvert." 

And his most recent missive to his followers, ended with, "Be prepared to defy."

O.F.F. took a leading roll in contacting county commissioners, lying to them about the intent of the bill, and leading them to put out statements against the bill.  Starrett's own sister, Mary Starrett, is a county commissioner as well, and has urged her Facebook followers to contact their commissioners and tell them not to fund background checks in their county:

We wouldn't want our elected officials to actually fund the laws they are in charge of funding, would we?  Oh, wait, failing to fund enforcement of a law would be a breach of their oath, wouldn't it?  Mary and these other commissioners might want to go back and take another look at that oath.  Quoting from that oath:
.... I will endeavor to secure economical expenditure of public funds sufficient in amount to afford efficient and economical administration of government in the county for which I have been appointed ....
Commissioners don't make the laws (that's the job of legislators) nor determine if they are constitutional (that's the job of judges).  Their oath demands that they find ways to fully fund them.  That's it.  It's all for show, though.  Funds for enforcing this law don't go through county commissioners, as far as I'm aware.

A few rural sheriffs have also come out as insurrectionists, saying they won't enforce the new law.  Again, these pro-gun sheriffs are openly saying they will break their oath of office, just as they did when the last federal background check bill was being considered.  

Grant County sheriff Glenn Palmer is one of those.  During testimony for the bill, he openly stated
"I have no intention of enforcing this law.  State law allows me to use discretion on misdemeanors and I plan to use it every step of the way."

Sheriff Palmer seems to forget that the second offense for a gun seller who fails to get a background check for the sale is a felony, not a misdemeanor.  In any case, he swore an oath to enforce the laws of his state.  Sheriffs don't make the laws (that's the job of legislators) nor determine if they are constitutional (that's the job of judges).  Their oath demands that they enforce them.  That's it.

Some of these pro-gun forces, including O.F.F. and the equally-extreme militia group known as the Oath Keepers, have organized a rally against the bill at the State Capitol in Salem, on May 30.  In fact, they have even named it the "I Will Not Comply Demonstration."  That's right: they are stating that they won't comply with the law.  In other words, they would rather be criminalsHERE is the Oath Keeper announcement for it.  HERE is the Facebook page for the event.  From the Facebook page text:
"Salem law says NON CHL people must open carry with an unloaded gun. we will not be in the capitol building, so no worries there. I Wont be checking your guns, so do what you think befits an i won't comply rally!" [sic]

Another pro-gun militia group, the "Sipsey Street Irregulars," sent a letter to Oregon legislators before the bill was passed.  In that letter, they stated, 
'Again I ask, how many of us are you willing to see dead to enforce your "benevolent" will upon us? Understand in advance, if you wish to enforce such a law, you will have to kill us. FOR WE WILL NOT COMPLY. We will greet it with the same tactic that we used to nullify every such law passed since Sandy Hook -- armed civil disobedience.'

So much for being "law abiding" gun owners!  It's not too surprising, though, since militia groups, including the Oath Keepers, have a long history of actual crimes and conspiracies.

Feeling vindictive toward the legislators who supported the bill, O.F.F. and some of their followers have now started petitions to recall some of the legislators who sponsored SB941, namely Val Hoyle (who had previously been given an "A" rating by O.F.F.) and Chuck Riley.  The petitions are being advertised by a handful of gun shops and hawked for signatures by their paid employees.  Given the fringe nature of these pro-gunners, and the fact that 79-90% of Oregonians supported the bill, they haven't a prayer of succeeding in a recall.  But vengeance is a virtue to these guys.

To all of these pro-gun advocates, I can simply say this:  We are a nation of laws, passed by duly-elected representatives of the people and interpreted by judges.  You have to follow these laws whether you agree with them or not.  Armed insurrection is illegal and specifically ruled out in the Constitution that you claim to hold dear.  If you don't like the laws, you can either elect officials who agree with you and will work to change them, or you can challenge the laws in a judicial court.  That's the nature of our representational democracy and the checks and balances called for in our Constitution.  You can either follow these laws... or be criminals yourselves.

UPDATE (6/1/15):  I mentioned above that there was now a vindictive recall effort being waged by the pro-gun forces against SB941 sponsor, Val Hoyle.  Well, it turns out that the petitions are being signed under questionable methods.   According to an article, the petitions are being improperly circulated.
The complaint says that investigators hired by Our Oregon found that recall petitions were improperly circulated at four gun stores in Hoyle's district. The group charged that employees helped gather signatures and should have registered with the state as paid petitioners. In addition, petitions were often left unsupervised, meaning that some people could have signed them without being witnessed by a canvasser, the complaint says.

A number of gun stores are pushing the petitions, using paid employees who are not registered as petitioners to garner signatures from store patrons.  This is a crime: racketeering.  They are also leaving the petitions unwatched, allowing for the possibility that people may be altering the petitions.  From the complaint:

Oregon elections law is unambiguous. If a person is receiving compensation while circulating a Recall Petition, that person must register with the Secretary of State and meet certain requirements (including passing a background check showing no prior convictions for forgery, fraud or identify theft). The evidence establishes that the Gun Stores and their employees appear to be engaged in paid signature circulation, in violation of Oregon elections law.

The evidence also establishes that the Chief Petitioner and the Recall Committee are not properly supervising circulation of the Recall Petition. The actions of Chief Petitioner Jason Thiesfeld, the Gun Stores and their employees, and the Recall Committee appear to constitute violations of Oregon elections law, Oregon criminal law, and ORI CO. Submission of the Recall Petition sheets discussed above, and petition sheets gathered under similar circumstances, may well constitute false certification under Oregon elections laws, and under Oregon's criminal code. The collective actions of Mr. Thiesfeld, the Recall Committee, the Gun Stores and their employees appear to be a racketeering, in violation of ORICO.
Sounds pretty airtight.  Not that the gun guys care.  As I said above, they are pro-criminal.  What's "racketeering" compared to helping prohibited people continue to buy guns?  

Gee, I wonder why the gun stores are pushing it so hard?  Could it be that they aren't really interested in a recall at all?  Could it be that, instead, their main interest is really just to sell more guns to the tiny minority of citizens who are vindictive, pro-gun extremists?  Hmmmm...

In any case, the named gun stores haven't stopped collecting signatures.  In fact, they've doubled down their efforts with new signs.

UPDATE (6/2/15): Lane County commissioners, led by the Tea Party member Jay Bozievich, recently wrote a resolution denouncing the background check law, siding with criminals and the opinion that prohibited people should continue to be able to buy guns without a background check, and going against their oath of office to fund the law.  From an article:

"Technically, it doesn't change the fact that you're going to have to abide by that law. Now whether or not you fail to do that, we're going to be able to investigate and prosecute your failure to do so, is basically what we're stating. We don't have those resources and we probably will not be prosecuting and investigating people under Senate Bill 941," said commissioner chair, Jay Bozievich.
The resolution passed 4-1. Pete Sorenson was the lone "no" vote.

In response to Commissioner Bozievich, the Executive Director of Ceasefire, Penny Okamoto, responded:

“This is just a way for Republicans to curry favor with Oregon firearms advocates," Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce gun violence, said on Wednesday.
“Do they mean to tell me the sheriff won’t prosecute the person who provided a murderer, illegally, with a gun?” Okamoto said.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Victory in Oregon! Universal Background Checks Enacted!

Monday was a tremendous day of success for Oregonians and the gun violence prevention movement!

After a concerted effort this session, we were able to get a bill requiring background checks for ALL gun purchases, including private transfers, through the Oregon Senate, House, and finally, Monday, signed by Governor Brown.

The bill takes effect immediately.  Now, if a gun owner wishes to sell a gun to someone other than
Governor Brown signing Senate Bill 941
immediate family members, the seller and the buyer must appear at a licensed firearms dealer to complete the sale, and, for a small fee, the buyer must pass a standard background check.

With more licensed dealers in the state than there are Starbucks and post offices combined, and an average wait time of only 5 minutes for the background check to be completed, it is a minor inconvenience for gun owners with a very significant gain for public safety.

Prior to this, background checks were only required at gun stores and gun shows in Oregon.  Hundreds are denied by the background checks every month in Oregon, to the tune of around 2000 a year!  Most of these were convicted felons, but some were also due to being adjudicated mentally insane, convicted of domestic violence, had warrants for their arrest, were underage, or were dishonorably discharged.  That's 2000 guns that were not put into the wrong hands.  Background checks work!

But all they needed to do was leave the store, answer a private ad, meet the seller in a parking lot, and then walk away with all the guns they could pay for, no background check required.  At last, we have stopped this gaping loophole!

Oregon now joins both Washington and California to complete the entire west coast in this regard.


-- Senate Bill 941 also calls for law enforcement to be notified whenever a person fails a background check so that they can be held accountable for the attempt.

-- There are exemptions for hunting and for sharing guns at a gun range.

-- People who are dangerously mentally ill can more easily be prevented from purchasing a gun while undergoing treatment for the illness

-- and sellers are held accountable, as well....

From an article:  "The seller of a gun would face a misdemeanor for a first offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. A second offense would be a felony, with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine."

Prior to this, the seller could just pretend not to have known that the buyer was prohibited and they would get off with it.  No more excuses!  This is a serious loss for black market gun runners!

Every Republican in the Oregon Senate and House voted against it.  But as I've commented before, numerous polls of Oregonians have shown support for the bill to the tune of 80-90%!! This mirrors numerous national polls, as well, where even 85% of gun owners support the regulation.

So who are the opponents representing??  A tiny fringe of pro-gun advocates?  The money from the NRA?  Aren't our elected leaders of our representational democracy supposed to actually represent the majority of their constituents?

Though this is a tremendous victory, we still have a long way to go.  For instance, there is a bill being considered right now in Oregon to require gun owners with children in the home to lock up their guns.  And there are dangerous bills to oppose, such as a bill that would allow conceal permit holders from very lenient states to have their permits recognized here, where requirements are at least a little more responsible, or a bill that would require schools to provide pro-gun training to kids as young as kindergarten!  We must stay vigilante and not let down our guard!  Shootings and gun crimes continue every day in Oregon.

But for the moment, we must bask in the glory of a job well done. 

We at Ceasefire Oregon would like to thank the legislators who sponsored this bill and helped champion it through the years, such as Floyd Prozanski, Ginny Burdick, and Val Hoyle, the numerous members of the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety coalition, and the many, many volunteers who helped make this happen and who gave passionate testimony.

Together, we will make a new trajectory for our state away from gun violence.

UPDATE (6/4/15):  To see the pro-gun response to this responsible bill, go HERE.