BEND, OR -- Gun control was a central issue discussed by current and potential state lawmakers at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters. The Monday night forum brought together three current Legislators for House District 53 and 54, and State Senate, and their three challengers.
State Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) is a strong advocate for Second Amendment rights. But, he says lawmakers can do more. "We need to find common ground on this issue, while respecting the rights of law abiding citizens and gun owners, but also to reduce criminal and accidental gun deaths." His Democratic challenger, Gena Goodman-Campbell, feels Buehler hasn't done enough in the legislature to reduce gun violence. "I have personal experience with the issue of gun violence. I think there is common ground; I think the vast majority of Americans can agree on the simple step of background checks before moving forward with a gun sale. And, I think that the vast majority of Americans can probably also agree that there's no reason for somebody to have a magazine with a high capacity of bullets." She supports closing the so-called "Charleston loophole" in Oregon, which would extend the time allowed for a background check. Buehler says he's seen no evidence that would reduce gun violence.
Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) is running for his eighth term. On gun control, he says he had hoped the legislature would have done more after last year's shooting at Umpqua Community College. "I was disappointed that the Legislature did not come out in any way to really protect our schools; and this was right after the Rogue Valley Community College [sic]. And, we didn't really address or come up with any solutions or any actions to take to prevent what happened in our backyard, in Oregon." His challenger, Democrat Michael Graham, is a retired paralegal. He also feels lawmakers need to do more. "In terms of background checks, there must be a way to prevent guns from ending up in the hands of people who are deranged or people who just have bad intentions." Whisnant doesn't think those on the "no fly list" should be allowed to own a gun, while Graham feels that could be unconstitutional.
For Bend's Senate seat, Tim Knopp (R-Bend) faced challenger Democrat Greg Delgado. Knopp feels there's not a lot the legislature can do. "The truth is, those who want to do evil are going to find a way to get the device that they want, whether that's a gun, a bomb, or a knife, or what have you, to do harm to people. And so, it's really important that our public safety is ever alert." Delgado, a former community activist, feels lawmakers can do more. "One in five people in Central Oregon own a gun. So, this is something that - It's our neighborhood, it's our community, who we are. Legislation for background checks is very important. The larger solution is we're not going to get rid of guns, and we can't live in fear of guns. But, we have to be able to live in comfortable and safe communities; and that's where the work needs to be done." Knopp served three terms in the State House, from 1999-2005, prior to being elected to the State Senate four years ago.