SALEM, OR -- State lawmakers held a marathon public hearing on a bill that would expand background checks for private gun sales in Oregon. The Senate passed SB 941, and the House is now considering it. The House Rules Committee held a seven-hour public hearing, which followed two hours of testimony, Wednesday.
Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) serves on the committee and was pleased the public had an opportunity to share. "I want to thank you for allowing the lengthy public hearing to allow people to testify," he said. "I know the Senate public hearing was only two hours, and a lot of people came to Salem and weren't able to testify -- some clear from Eastern Oregon. I don't know if they were able to make the trek [today] because it was only posted a couple days ago."
Rules Committee Chair Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) says she decided to hold the public hearing so everyone got a chance to testify -– unlike the Senate, which only held two hours of hearings before passing the bill.
"I want to say thank you to my Republican colleagues, Democratic colleagues, the committee staff and other people who have come here who have said ‘yes, we believe in the public process and we will stay until 10:00 at night because it is really, really important,’” she said.
David Terry of McMinnville spoke Wednesday afternoon, saying the state had no business passing the bill. "Our fundamental right to protect ourselves with a gun is absolutely inalienable," he argued. "And this body has absolutely no right, no constitutional right or moral right, to interfere."
Sam McCallister of Mapleton agreed, saying gun laws like this are unconstitutional. "This law will essentially cause the system to be overloaded with a bunch of legitimate purchasers, and it will not help the system," he said. "At the same time, those people that are illegitimate purchasers will still get their guns however they get their guns."
Currently, background checks are needed to buy guns from licensed dealers, but not for private, person-to-person transactions. SB 941, passed by the Senate last week, would change that.