State senator speaks to Oregon Area Jewish Committee

State Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) has recently been in the spotlight for her advocacy for gun safety. And at event in March put on by the Oregon Area Jewish Committee, she told some constituents why she feels now is the time to fight for CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - State Sen. Ginny Burdick speaks to the Oregon Area Jewish Committee on issue of gun safety.

Burdick, who lives in Hillsdale and whose district includes parts of several neighborhoods of Southwest Portland, has been a state senator since 1997, supporting ‘common sense’ gun legislation’ in her initial campaign.

“The only reason that I can think of that I won … is the gun issue, and so I felt a sense of mission,” Burdick said. “But more importantly, I felt that I had the gun owners in my district behind me … actual hardcore gun owners, they were behind me.”

The mass shootings at Clackamas Town Center and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., gave her impetus to put her mission into practice, moving firearm reform to the front of her to-do list.

“I chair the tax committee; I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Burdick said. “But after Sandy Hook, I simply didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

Burdick quickly became a key voice in the national conversation on gun violence.

“We’re never going to solve the problem of gun violence as long as we have 300 million of them floating around in our society,” she said, “but we can have a reasonable conversation; we can have reasonable laws.”

Burdick distanced herself from some solutions proposed in the the wake of those shootings.

“My two priorities are always to keep guns out of the wrong hands and keep them out of the wrong places. We do not need loaded guns in our schools,” she said. “If everybody brings a gun to school, it won’t end well … because people are not trained.”

Burdick said the wrong type of gun has been under fire in the popular imagination.

“If you look at the murder rate in the country, it’s really handguns … that kill people,” she said. “If you look at some of the mass killings, it was when they were switching magazines that somebody was able to bring them down — usually somebody unarmed.”

Handguns, however, are widely available, so much so that, according to Burdick, “Basically, anyone with $65 and a pulse can have one.”

It is this mass access to handguns, she said, that is to blame for the fact that “We lose one Oregonian a day to gun violence.”

With that in mind, Burdick has sponsored four pieces of legislation: to ban gun magazines with more than 10 rounds, to restrict concealed handgun license holders from bringing their guns into schools, to ban semi automatic rifles classified as assault weapons, and to expand Oregon's background checks to include sales from one private individual to another.

The most important thing, Burdick said, “is to talk about it. And you don’t let a candidate who comes to your door get off your doorstep without raising the issue, ‘Where are you on gun safety? What are you doing to do about it?’”

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