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What we need is one brave Republican

The Oregon Senate is attempting to accomplish what the U.S. Congress should have done — but didn’t — in passage of expanded criminal background checks for firearm purchases.

Last week, the U.S. Senate took the wind from the sails of federal gun control measures. While not a perfect package, it did contain some provisions that almost certainly would have kept fewer firearms from getting into the hands of the wrong people.

Partisan politics in the nation’s capitol led to that disappointing outcome. Had a commitment to the safety of the American people been at play, the gun-control debate would have ended differently.

Not all gun-control measures hold equal promise for ending the type of violence that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., or at Clackamas Town Center in Oregon. In fact, some gun-control measures will likely do little, if anything, to stop gun violence.

But there really are no good arguments for opposition to the expansion of background checks.

Almost as quickly as Congress fumbled on this provision, the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee was moving four gun bills on to the full Senate, including the provision of expanded background checks.

Mirroring the political divisions in Washington, D.C., Oregon’s package of gun-control revisions also is divided along party line. The bill faces a 15-15 split in the full Senate. Those who are likely voting against the bill include all 14 Republicans and Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Democrat from Scappoose.

What Oregon needs at this moment is for one Republican senator to make a common-sense choice, and switch his or her vote in favor of expanded background checks.

This bill is not about taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase legal firearms. This is simply about keeping firearms out of the hands of people who have been convicted of a felony, and who already are banned from possessing a firearm.

This bill strengthens the requirements for firearm sales by requiring background checks for all private sales and transfers, except for those between family members.

Under current law, anyone can purchase a firearm without a background check when that transaction takes place outside of gun shows or licensed firearm retail outlets. That means many of the firearms for private sale could easily be purchased by a convicted felon. This law would close that door, making it more difficult for convicted felons to put their hands on weapons.

Here’s how it would work. You could still sell rifles, shotguns or handguns, but the responsibility would be on the seller to call the Oregon State Police and seek authorization to complete that transaction. It costs $10, and is a fee you’ll pay via credit card over the phone. Within about five minutes, you’ll be told if the sale is authorized. The cost of the background check can be passed along to the buyer.

The bill also would require that the seller keep the results of the background check on record for five years as proof of a legal sale. That record is sort of like a “get out of jail free card.”

On the other side of that equation, you’ve got the buyers. And if they have nothing to hide — as law-abiding citizens — then the requirement of a background check shouldn’t make any difference. It’s nothing different than they already face at gun shows or the counter of retail sporting good stores.

We understand the political quagmire Republicans envision at the thought of breaking ranks and voting favorably on this bill. But this is not about limiting freedom to the right to buy and sell firearms. This bill is only about keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals.

What is really needed is a brave Republican to do the right thing: see through the political haze and focus on the end result — fewer guns in the hands of felons.

Correction

An earlier version of this online editorial gave a bad example of how easy it could be for convicted felons to obtain guns. Craigslist policy prohibits sale of weapons and related items, including firearms, ammunition, silencers, pellet/BB guns, tear gas or stun guns. We apologize for the error.




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