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Oregon must be a leader in gun control

Two Views: Common sense solutions? Stricter laws? Firearms in political crosshairs


On Dec. 11, a gunman carrying an AR-15 assault rifle killed two holiday shoppers at Clackamas Town Center and critically wounded a third.

Three days later, another gunman with an AR-15 brutally murdered 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School and their six heroic teachers in Newtown, Conn.

A collective cry of anguish erupted around the country and here in Oregon. Enough is enough.

And from the anguish emerged a tide of passion to take meaningful action against the epidemic of gun violence that killed nearly 32,000 people last year and deprived a classroom of first-graders of their simple right to grow up.

There is much we can do right here in Oregon to address gun violence and we must.

Why? Because we have never been more outraged, we have never felt more vulnerable, even in places families and children gather; and we have never been more dedicated in our resolve that this can’t happen again.

Until Newtown, any discussion of gun policy in this country was dominated by gun rights extremists and the politicians who cater to them. Newtown changed that. Responsible gun owners, moms and dads, doctors and nurses, teachers and school boards are coming forward in a way they never have before. This time, they are determined to make their voices heard.

Gun owners like Rick George of McMinnville are among the most forceful voices. “A fundamental and necessary part of the solution is to outlaw and prohibit the sale of these weapons designed to kill people, such as the AR-15, similar guns and the high-capacity ammunition clips that allow anyone so inclined to kill and maim dozens of innocent people in just seconds,” George wrote recently in The Oregonian. “We must remove these guns from our idea of what is fun and what is right.”

There are other common sense measures that gun owners support, knowing that they are no threat to their own gun rights. Polling shows overwhelming public support for universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers; prohibiting guns in schools; and banning high-capacity magazines.

The time to act on these reasonable measures is now. We know that the gun rights extremists who pretend to speak for all gun owners will continue to bombard legislators with the absurd message that guns have nothing to do with gun violence. But the reasonable majority must take on this issue as if our lives depended on it — because they well might.

The Legislature convened on Monday. As that occurred, my colleagues and I have introduced several gun safety bills, including: Senate Bill 347 to remove an exemption that allows anyone with a concealed handgun license to bring a loaded gun into a K-12 school; SB 346 to limit the size of gun magazines to 10 rounds; and a bill being drafted to require background checks for all gun sales and transfers except those between immediate family members.

I will also co-sponsor a bill advanced by Ceasefire Oregon to ban military-style assault weapons, as well as large-capacity magazines.

Here is what you can do to help Oregon become a leader in addressing gun violence: Contact your legislators. Every Oregonian is represented by one senator and one representative. Find out who yours are and call and/or email them. As a first step, ask for a clear answer on how they plan to vote on the gun safety issue(s) you care about. If you are not happy with the answer, it is perfectly fine to disagree respectfully. If your legislator is on your side, express your appreciation and ask what you can do to help. Your legislator can be found on the legislative website, leg.state.or.us.

Also, get on your legislator’s mailing list to learn about town halls and other opportunities for participation. Attend those town halls and bring gun safety into every discussion.

Join an Advocacy Group. Sign up for alerts and information with Ceasefire Oregon at ceasefireoregon.org. Ceasefire Oregon will have up-to-date information about hearings and other opportunities for participation. If you are a member of a professional group, especially in the areas of public health or children’s issues, try to get your group involved in advocacy.

Come to Salem. If possible, come to Salem for hearings and rallies. You don’t need to testify, but you will have an opportunity if you wish. Your presence will make a difference. Come to Salem anytime to visit your senator or representative. And bring your friends.

Now is the time to honor and act in the names of all victims of gun violence, including those in Clackamas and Newtown. Enough is enough. Make 2013 the year we refused to back down in the fight for sensible gun laws. This is a battle that reasonable, moderate and now heartbroken Oregonians can and must win.

Ginny Burdick, who has represented Senate District 18 (Tigard, King City and portions of Southwest Portland) since 1997, also is serving as senate president pro tempore during the 2013 legislative session.