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Gun-law clash builds in advance of anniversary

Both sides of debate gather forces to lobby lawmakers


by: PHOTO BY: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Portland-area residents attend a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Clackamas Town Center, the scene of a mass shooting on Dec. 11, 2012. Members from local gun violence prevention organizations Moms Demand Action and Ceasefire Oregon were in attendance.Three organizations working to prevent firearms violence announced Wednesday the creation of a new coalition, the Oregon Alliance To Prevent Gun Violence, in response to December’s Clackamas Town Center shooting.

On Thursday, March 28, members of the groups gathered for a candlelight vigil at the mall that was the site of three deaths on Dec. 11 — Steve Forsyth, a 45-year-old West Linn father of two; Cindy Ann Yuille of Northeast Portland, a 54-year-old Kaiser Permanente hospice nurse; and Jacob Tyler Roberts, the 22-year-old shooter who committed suicide before police could arrest him.

Groups participating included Ceasefire Oregon, the Portland Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Portland, Mid-Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon chapters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The alliance’s first official joint project is a Day of Action and Rally in Salem in support of new Oregon gun-safety legislation, scheduled for Thursday, April 4 — the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

“We represent the majority of Oregonians who support common sense laws designed to promote gun safety — laws that will protect every Oregonian’s right to live in communities free from gun violence,” said Jenn Lynch, who heads the Moms Demand Action chapter for Portland.

In preparation for the Day of Action, organizers are busy gathering endorsements for pending Oregon gun legislation from social-service agencies, as well as from public and private organizations.

Supporters say oversize magazines (a device that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition) are a key enabler of mass killings.

Under proposed legislation, anyone who owns an assault weapon would be allowed to keep it, and up to three oversize magazines, provided they are registered and securely stored.

Meanwhile, the Canby-based Oregon Firearms Federation, the state’s only “no compromise” gun lobby, joined two dozen other gun-rights advocacy groups across the country in sending letters to lawmakers urging them to protect their Second Amendment rights.

“Concentrating all power in the state was the central theme behind every murderous regime in history. It must not be allowed to happen here,” said OFF Executive Director Kevin Starrett.

A state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on several gun-safety bills is scheduled for Friday, April 5, and organizers on both sides of the issue hope to demonstrate strong, deep-rooted public support, or opposition, for those bills across a broad spectrum of Oregonians. Senate Bill 347 would prohibit guns in K-12 schools with exceptions for special programs, SB 700 would require criminal background checks for gun transfers outside the immediate family, and SB 796 would require someone applying for a concealed-handgun license to pass a firing-range test.

“The tide turned after the Clackamas Town Center and Sandy Hook shootings. The majority is coming together to stand up to the very small, but loud, number of gun extremists, and we demand action now,” said Penny Okamoto, Ceasefire Oregon executive director.

Stripping away rights

But pro-gun lobbyists don’t think events at Clackamas Town Center or Sandy Hook should be part of the discussion.

“Stripping away a God-given, constitutionally protected right as a reaction to the crimes of madmen is a ridiculous way to make national policy,” Starrett said.

Starrett identified U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Hood River Republican representing the state’s Second District, is Oregon’s only member of Congress who “isn’t anti-gun” and will be encouraging supporters to write their current lawmakers and vote in the future to support “Second Amendment candidates.”

Alliance organizers also vowed to track state legislators’ votes on gun-safety legislation, and build a political constituency around this issue for upcoming elections.

“Gun violence is preventable, takes too many lives, and there are things we can do today to make a difference,” said Erin Thomas, Brady Campaign Portland chapter co-founder. “Let’s focus on a very clear area of agreement between gun-rights advocates and the Brady Campaign: we can establish zero tolerance for murder as a solution to anything.”

The Clackamas Town Center event was one of more than 120 events nationwide commemorating a National Day of Action to Reduce Gun Violence, which was launched at the White House Thursday morning by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and more than a dozen American mothers directly impacted by gun violence.

“Oregonians have not forgotten the tragic shootings at Clackamas Town Center in December, and we are tired of inaction in Washington, D.C., more than three months after the fact,” said Helen Nolen of Organizing For Action. “The time for common sense restrictions on gun purchases and ammunition is now.”




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