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Sometime in the next week, Oregon Senate Bill 700 is expected to be voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and go to the full Senate.

The proposed legislation would require criminal background checks for gun sales between private individuals, but would provide an exception for family members who transfer ownership of their firearms. Currently, background checks are required for guns purchased from gun dealers and at gun shows, but are not legally necessary in private sales.

How much support the bill will have if and when it comes to a vote remains unclear.

“SB700 is still in committee in the Senate,” explained state Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro). “I assume it will pass out of committee. I have no idea what the vote count is, but I would surprised if it is a completely party line vote.”

If the legislation is ultimately approved, those failing to request a background check before transferring a firearm to anyone outside the gun owner’s immediate family would face legal penalties. SB 700 calls for a maximum term of 30 days’ imprisonment and/or a $1,250 fine for a first offense and a maximum term of one year in jail and/or a $6,250 fine for a second offense. Anyone caught violating the law three times or more could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail, a $125,000 fine, or both.

State Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) had been rumored to be a possible “swing vote” who had not yet made up his mind on the bill, but he quashed that speculation on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m a ‘No’ on the bill, and I don’t believe the bill has the votes to pass the Senate floor,” Starr said.

Unger said he supports the idea of requiring background checks as a way to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of criminals or those who might seek to harm others.

“In these times, we need to improve public safety,” Unger explained. “I support universal background checks, and believe they are one important way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

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