Former PSU basketball player Deante Strickland died in a NE Portland shooting last week. Though recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton have dominated headlines, Strickland’s death is a sobering reminder that Portland is not immune to the gun violence epidemic.
As the nation considers the role of guns in our society, it is worth looking at our laws closer to home. Here’s an overview of how people get guns in Oregon, what is allowed in Portland and the current status of Oregon’s heated gun debate.
Getting a gun in Oregon
In general, a person may not buy a gun in Oregon if:
1. They are under 18.
— A parent, guardian or person with permission from a guardian may give firearms other than handguns to a minor
— A minor may temporarily possess a gun for the purpose of hunting or target practice
2. They have been convicted of a felony at any time, or a violent misdemeanor within the last four years.
3. A court has determined them mentally ill.
This list covers the umbrella reasons a person cannot obtain a gun–you can find a complete list here. Licensed firearm sellers must request a background check on purchasers and retain a record of the sale for five years, but gun owners do not need a permit, unless they want to conceal carry.
Compared to neighboring California, Oregon is a fairly gun-friendly state, though Idaho maintains the most lax laws in the region.
Portland’s gun rules
The Oregonian wrote a good overview of Portland’s unique regulations last year. The primary takeaways are:
1. Unless you have a concealed carry permit, you cannot carry a loaded firearm in a public space in Portland, including in a vehicle and on public streets.
2. You cannot fire a gun in Portland with a few exceptions, including defense of property or another person.
3. Only the state legislature can regulate background checks, weapons bans and other gun control measures.
What’s happening now?
According to the Center for Disease Control’s most recent data, 528 Oregonians died from guns in 2017.
— This year the Oregon Legislature strengthened a 2015 law intended to keep guns from people convicted of domestic violence and/or stalking. Courts must order convicted persons to relinquish their firearms and ammunition, and the transfer must happen within 24 hours of the court order.
— The legislative session recently ended, with other gun control measures left on the table. Democrats forfeited a sweeping gun reform bill, SB 978, to court Senate Republicans back to the Capitol after a four-day walkout in May.
But Democrats may mobilize on the bill again next year. As currently written, SB 978 requires safe gun storage and grants more regulatory power to local governments, among other regulations.
— Concerned that the legislature will not pass safe gun storage mandates, activists filed for the issue to be on the ballot in November 2020, according to the Portland Tribune.
— Willamette Week recently checked in on Oregon’s red flag law, instituted in 2017, which allows police, family and members of a household to petition a court to restrict a person’s access to firearms if they appear to be a threat to themselves or others. The law has bipartisan support and seems to be having its intended effect.
Photo courtesy of Oregon State Legislature