Gun bill moves foward in the Legislature
SALEM — At age 24, Jenna Yuille lost her mother in the 2012 mass shooting at Clackamas Town Center. Four years later, her father committed suicide using a firearm.
"I have now lost not one but both of my parents to gun violence," Yuille said. "I knew that my dad wasn't doing too well, but I didn't know how to help him."
A bill in the Legislature would provide a tool for families to block loved ones' access to firearms if they posed a risk to themselves or others.
The legislation would create an extreme-risk protection order process. Families could obtain the temporary order — up to 12 months -- by petitioning to the court. The subject of the order could contest its issuance in court.
Once issued, the protection order could be renewed annually.
"What we're trying to do is provide the best course of action to give family a chance to help themselves to prevent their veterans and other family members from killing themselves, prevent suicide by cop and worse, killing family members in desperation," said Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), who represents Senate District 12, which includes Dundee but not Newberg.
Oregon has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, including among veterans, said Boquist, a veteran himself.
Boquist's son, Seth Sprague, a 31-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, used a firearm to commit suicide in February 2016. The tragedy spurred Boquist to work with Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), to design legislation that could help families intervene when a loved one threatens to take their own life. The bill is modeled after a measure voters approved last year in Washington
The National Rifle Association and local gun rights advocates are opposed to the bill.
"This bill allows for a protective order to take away your Second Amendment rights, not because of a criminal conviction or mental health adjudication, but based on third-party allegations, using an evidentiary standard that falls far below what is normally required for removing a firearm," said Keely Hopkins, NRA's Oregon liaison.
The bill also does nothing to stop someone from killing themselves in some other way or to provide treatment for the individual, Hopkins added.
Yuille knows the exact date her father, Michael Passalacqua of Milwaukie, went to a gun shop and bought the firearm he used to kill himself. She found a receipt dated July 18, 2016, after his death.
"If I had known that a tool like the extreme-risk protection order was available, I would have used it, and my dad probably wouldn't have been able to go buy a gun that day," Yuille testified last week during a hearing on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill is one of three evoking strong emotions from supporters and opponents.
Two other bills, proposed by Gov. Kate Brown, would close several gun-purchase loopholes and study reasons for gun purchases.
One of those bills closes the so-called "Charleston" loophole that allows applicants to buy a gun within three days, regardless of whether the Oregon State Police has completed a mandatory background check on the buyer. Another bill bans people who have stalking convictions, or boyfriends who have domestic violence convictions, from owning a gun.
"It is a common-sense, life-saving bill that will protect Oregon's women and children by closing the boyfriend loophole, preventing convicted stalkers from buying and possessing guns and keeping guns out of the wrong hands by closing the Charleston loophole," Brown testified.
Opponents and supporters of the bills filled a meeting room and three overflow rooms to testify on them. Signs posted around the Capitol reminded visitors no guns are permitted in the building without a concealed handgun permit, and Oregon State Police had visibly enhanced security around the building.
The bill passed in the Senate last week with Boquist the only Republican to vote in favor of it. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.