The summary for Oregon’s latest proposed gun legislation, Senate Bill 978, is two sentences long, but the bill includes a 44-page amendment tacking on several new requirements for gun owners.
The bill contains provisions about gun storage requirements, allowing retailers to raise the minimum age to buy a gun, regulating 3-D printed guns, transferring guns and reporting lost or stolen guns.
A local firearms expert said the bill could take guns away from responsible citizens.
“There are a lot of law-abiding gun owners — not right-wingers,” said Marc LeQuieu of Mt. Vernon. “They just kind of want to be left alone.”
The majority of gun owners are “responsible and do what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
LeQuieu has been involved in research and development in the firearms industry over the past 20 years and said he’s worked with every firearms manufacturer.
He’s a former professional hunter in Botswana, Africa, and was a wildland firefighter for 14 years until he was injured.
LeQuieu, who describes himself as a moderate independent, said there are about 20 points made in the SB 978 that raise concerns for him. He said some would take away rights, some points are redundant and others make no sense.
For example, Section 6 requires gun owners to place a trigger lock or cable on their gun and place it in a locked container or gun room.
“That eliminates that object from any sort of use for personal protection,” LeQuieu said, adding farmers and ranchers keep them in their trucks and use them as tools.
He said the regulation is a knee-jerk reaction.
“Someone who is motivated to do harm to others is going to find a way to figure it out,” he said.
He said it would be easy for a person to buy cable cutters at a hardware store to bypass the locks.
Another part of the bill requires gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 72 hours or be charged with a Class B violation.
“It’s a general rule — anyone would go to the police to report it (a firearm) missing or stolen,” LeQuieu said. “Again, it’s taking away the responsibility from the criminal.”
He said the bill, if passed, would “take away liberties unjustly from the American people under the false guise of civil or public safety.”
He added, “If we were truly worried about human life, we would focus our efforts, our money, our politics on things that truly cost and damage and destroy our young people and members of society.”
He said, although he disagrees with the bill, he has respect for Gov. Kate Brown.
“I would like to encourage her to reach out to industry professionals to give proficient and wise council with regards to the reality of firearms,” he said. “... someone who designs, builds and manufactures — they understand the inner workings of them and the safety of the operations.”
He said focusing on issues such as drug addiction, homelessness and mental illness would make a greater impact.
Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter also expressed concern about the proposed legislation.
“Once again, the legislature is focusing on an issue other than mental health,” Carpenter said. “They’re saying enforce more gun laws, but they’re not providing us with tools to help people with mental illness.”
Canyon City resident Dan Vandehey attended a recent hunter education live fire test day with his 10-year old daughter, Jaime, who was there to complete her gun safety certification.
Jaime said she attended the two-week class, sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and enjoyed shooting a .22 and bow and arrow during the test day. But it was not her first experience with firearm safety.
“I learned about safety from my dad,” she said.
Dan Vandehey, who has been a Grant County Sheriff’s reserve deputy and a member of the county search and rescue team, said, “Being a good parent takes a lot more responsibility today.”
He feels gun safety classes should be mandatory and said, although he understands the fear over school shootings, more thought and education needs to go into any proposed gun bill.
“This (gun legislation) doesn’t affect the bad guys at all,” he said.
Canyon City resident Shiela Kowing said she believes her gun saved her in July 2015 when a man tried to break into her home.
She said, if her gun had been locked up, she would not have had time to get to it to protect herself.
“When you’re in those circumstances, emotionally, you’re not thinking straight,” she said. “You go into fight or flight mode. You can’t think ‘Oh, where’s my key.’”
Kowing, who works as a 911 dispatcher in John Day, said her husband and daughter had left the home earlier.
When she saw the man trying the door knobs, she grabbed the gun that she keeps hidden and her phone, she said.
Kowing said she feels it’s important to raise kids to respect the danger of guns.
“Don’t leave them out,” she said, adding that if some firearms are used only occasionally for hunting they could be locked up.
She said they later found out the man was after her husband’s medications that had been prescribed after a transplant surgery.
“He had never been caught in a home before,” she said of the would-be robber.
Kowing held him at gunpoint and then he fled. She was able to give 911 a description of the man and vehicle, and he was soon caught.
The man held a metal chain in his hand while trying to break into Kowing’s home.
“If I hadn’t had the gun in my hand, I think I would have been grievously injured or killed,” she said.