Oregon may honor concealed handgun licenses from other states as gun politics … – OregonLive.com
Groups seeking tighter gun laws won a big victory last month in the Oregon Legislature on background checks. But now they’re losing a battle over a bill dealing with concealed handgun licenses.
The turnabout in political fortune shows that many legislators continue to be concerned about the concerns of gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.
The strong support for the concealed handgun license bill may also reflect the desire of many legislators to offset their support for the controversial bill on background checks by voting for something sought by guns-rights activists.
“It wouldn’t surprise me” if that happened, says Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, chief sponsor of the concealed handgun bill. “There were some people who had to take a ‘yes’ vote on [background checks] and it’s not going to be good for them in their districts.”
Post’s measure, House Bill 3093, opens the door to allowing concealed handgun licensees from many states to also carry in Oregon. Currently, 18 states honor Oregon licenses, potentially allowing their licensees to carry here if HB 3093 becomes law.
This is an important issue to the NRA and many gun-rights supporters who think people with concealed handgun permits ought to be able to carry their guns when they travel around the nation.
“If you have a driver’s license, you can drive a 2,000-pound car in any state without anyone blinking an eye,” says Post. “What’s the difference between that and a gun?”
Supporters of tougher restrictions on gun say there’s a big difference.
Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, said Oregon’s standards are stringent enough and that it ought to be harder to get a concealed handgun license in the state. More than 180,000 Oregonians have licenses, according to the Oregon State Police.
Concealed Handgun Licenses in Oregon
County sheriffs shall issue a license to carry a concealed handgun if an applicant:
• Is at least 21 years old.
• Is a U.S. citizen, or a legal alien who can document continuous residency in the U.S. for at least six months and has declared intent to become a citizen.
• Has no felony convictions in any state or federal court.
• Has not been convicted of a misdemeanor within past 4 years.
• Has no outstanding arrest warrants.
• Has no legal restrictions against possessing a firearm under Oregon or federal law.
• Has not been found to be mentally ill.
• Has not been dishonorably discharged from the military.
• Does not use drugs.
• Is not on any form of pretrial release.
• Is not required to register as a sex offender in any state.
• Is not named in any stalking or restraining orders.
• Submits to fingerprinting and a background check.
• Can show valid, government-issued photo identification.
• Can demonstrate competence with a handgun by completing an approved handgun-safety course.
• Pays a fee of $65 for new applications; $50 for renewals.
“In the state of Oregon, you don’t even have to touch a gun to get a license,” said Okamoto, noting that an applicant can obtain one by watching an online video and passing a test.
Several groups have come out in opposition to the bill in recent days, including Ceasefire Oregon, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Safety and the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety.
But just a small handful of legislators have expressed opposition.
The measure passed the House on a 57-1 vote, with Sen. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, casting the only no vote.
Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, a longtime supporter of tighter gun laws, cast the only vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee against the bill on Monday, June 1.
“We don’t have a shortage of people carrying AR-15s into the state Capitol,” she said, referring to the fact that licensees can openly carry firearms in the building. “We don’t need to be importing them into the state.”
Burdick said the gun control groups “were caught by surprise” by the concealed handgun bill in the House because they were so focused on winning support for the background check legislation that passed the same body five days later.
“That House vote clearly wasn’t worked,” she said.
Instead, the concealed handgun bill had a five-minute hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, a two-minute work session and a seven-minute debate on the floor.
While similar concealed handgun bills had been introduced in previous sessions, they had never gone anywhere. Supporters said this year’s version had the right combination of elements that allowed it to advance.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, the chief sponsor of the measure expanding background checks, said he’s always been willing to open the state’s doors to qualified holders of concealed handgun licenses.
“I personally believe the vast majority of CHL holders are good citizens,” he said, adding that he just wants licensees from other states to meet Oregon requirements.
Prozanski, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, successfully sought an amendment to Post’s bill to make sure that reciprocal status would only be granted to states that at least equaled all of Oregon’s requirements. The House bill focused on the handgun competency requirements but didn’t ensure that licensees from other states had to meet all of Oregon’s restrictions on possessing firearms.
The bill is now headed toward the Senate floor with the support of the NRA, which also backs a bill in Congress allowing concealed handgun licenses to be honored throughout the country.
“It just makes sense,” said Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokeswoman, arguing that it is part of supporting a “constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Kevin Starrett, who heads the Oregon Firearms Federation, said he’s been fighting for reciprocity for 15 years. What changed, he said, was this year’s battle over background checks.
“This is about them being able to go back to people and say, ‘Look what we’ve done.'”
Still, Starrett said he is happy to take the victory if the Legislature winds up approving HB 3093, saying that concealed handgun licensees should be able to carry their firearms when they visit Oregon.