Key Oregon House committee takes up bill to criminalize ghost guns
SALEM, Ore. (CN) — A set of three new gun restriction bills made their way to Oregon’s House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday morning, where state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined several others to endorse a bill that would sentence ghost gun owners up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
HB 2005 — which defines an “undetectable firearm” or ghost gun — arrived alongside two other House bills involving more gun restrictions in Oregon. HB 2006 would ban the sale of certain firearms to Oregonians under the age of 21, and HB 2007 would authorize certain public entities to adopt ordinances that prohibit the possession of firearms in public buildings and adjacent grounds by concealed handgun licensees.
All three bills come on the heels of pending lawsuits over a law approved by voters in November 2022 that bans high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Rosenblum attributed public safety as the primary goal for banning ghost guns, describing them as the “weapon of choice of violent criminals” and appealing to “people who cannot pass a background check.”
Rosenblum noted that since she last spoke on the issue, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives implemented a rule mandating the main components of a ghost gun kit to be serialized and sold through a legal background check process. However, she said the rule does not prevent 3D-printed ghost guns, which can get past metal detectors within the capitol building, or regulate ghost guns already in Oregon.
“The federal rule only applies to the import, sale and manufacture of unfinished frames and receivers,” Rosenblum said. “So, this bill that you have before you closes this gaping loophole by regulating possession as well and making it a very low-level offense so that we can encourage people to go out and get their guns serialized, get that serial number stamped on their gun.”
Democratic State Senator James Manning Jr., chief sponsor of the bill and a former police officer from Eugene, said if the committee believed in “backing the blue, this is the other element to protect them.”
Speakers frequently addressed HB 2006 too. Under this bill, Oregonians 18 to 21 could use certain firearms, including single-shot rifles and double-barreled shotguns. The bill would also give leeway for transfers to minors from parents and exceptions to military and law enforcement, which was discussed by Representative Paul Evans, a Democrat from Monmouth, at the beginning of the meeting.
“This bill is not a ban, and it is not a one-solution-for-every problem approach that many other states have taken forward,” Evans said.
Olivia Li of Everytown for Gun Safety argued it closes a loophole in Oregon’s gun safety policies by requiring residents to be at least 21 to purchase semiautomatic rifles.
“The gunman who killed 21 people and injured 17 others at Robb Elementary in Uvalde waited until his 18th birthday to purchase two assault weapons,” Li said, adding the bill can prevent these tragedies and Oregon shouldn’t wait for one to pass a sensible age restriction.
Representative Virgle Osborne, a Republican from Roseburg, opposes the bill and said if the committee thought firearms should be restricted to those 21 and older, the bill would reflect as much.
“Instead, it gives false notion that some calibers are less dangerous than others,” Osborne said, further arguing that other bills would do little to reduce gun violence because the state has a mental health problem instead.
Citing figures from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Osborne pointed out that in 2020, 592 Oregonians died from guns, but less than 20% of the gun deaths were homicides. Approximately 454 of those gun deaths were suicides.
Michael Findlay of the National Shooting Sports Foundation spent part of his testimony opposing the ghost gun ban to address Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt's inability to prosecute 26 felons in possession of firearms last year due to a lack of public defenders.
“If we want to address these issues, let's give them the resources and the funding that they need to put violent offenders and those that commit crimes behind bars, because this is a perpetual problem that we keep seeing,” Findlay said. “We're not seeing law-abiding citizens having these issues. We are seeing by and large, a lot of felons continue to be not held accountable for continuing to commit crimes.”
The committee also heard opposing testimony from Kerry Spurgin of the Oregon State Shooting Association, Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation, Whitley Sullivan of Oregon Gun Owners and Aoibheann Cline of the National Rifle Association. All oppose all three bills.
But to those who opposed HB 2007 — which would ban those with a concealed handgun license from carrying on certain public properties — the overall sentiment was clear: laws don’t deter criminals.
“There is no evidence and there is no logic that would lead us to believe that a criminal would follow any one of these laws,” Spurgin said, later adding he believes they will not impact Oregon’s “criminal element,” but “just infringe upon lawful citizens.”