The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, August 12, 2015, Page 19, Image 18

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    Wednesday, August 12, 2015 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Expansion of gun sale background checks takes effect
By Jeff Mapes
The Oregonian
new Oregon law requiring
background checks for pri-
vate gun transactions will take
effect Sunday amid plenty of
Nobody really knows how
many private sales occur in
Oregon and there is heated
debate about whether the new
law will be widely ignored or
On top of that, many local
sheriffs and county commis-
sions say they don’t intend to
enforce the new law — and
it’s unclear how many gun
dealers will even agree to
conduct checks for private
“We don’t really know”
how many more background
checks will be conducted,
said Dave Piercy, who man-
ages the firearms unit for the
Oregon State Police. “This
is a big cultural change for
Gov. Kate Brown signed
Senate Bill 941 into law on
May 11 after an intense leg-
islative battle that pitted gun-
rights activists against groups
seeking to stem gun violence.
The measure requires
criminal and mental-health
checks for private gun trans-
fers. The federal government
has long required these
checks for sales by licensed
gun dealers. The state police
conducted about 240,000
checks last year and denied
about one percent of the sales
because the buyer is legally
prohibited from possessing a
But extending the checks
to private gun transfers was
a difficult blow for many gun
owners accustomed to lend-
ing, swapping, buying and
selling their firearms with-
out the involvement of the
They question why some-
one should have to get a back-
ground check to sell a gun to
a good friend or store it at a
neighbor’s house while on
“This is the creepiest,
rottenest law,” said Warren
Lacasse, owner of The Gun
Room in Southeast Portland,
predicting that many gun
owners will simply ignore it.
But supporters say the
new law can help change atti-
tudes — just as seat-belt laws
spurred much higher usage
“The vast majority of gun
owners are really responsible
and they really do want to
follow the law,” said Penny
Okamoto, executive director
of Ceasefire Oregon. “Some
of the recent mass shootings
have jarred peoples’ con-
sciousness that there are some
people out there who should
not be having guns.”
When the bill takes effect,
Oregon will become the 12th
state to require universal
background checks for both
handguns and long guns.
Everytown for Gun
Safety, the national group
funded by billionaire Michael
Bloomberg that played a
big role in pushing through
Oregon’s law, says its
research shows that states
with universal background
checks have lower rates of
firearm violence.
Experts say a number of
factors can affect a state’s
level of gun violence. A
report by the Kaiser Family
Foundation found that
Oregon’s firearm death rate
2013 was 11 per 100,000 peo-
ple, compared to a national
average of 10.4.
Everytown for Gun Safety
says its “gun safety support
fund” will soon launch adver-
tising promoting the law and
explaining that it is “easy
to comply” with the new
More than 2,000
Oregonians have the federal
firearms licenses required to
conduct background checks
through the state police.
Many are hobbyists or antique
firearm dealers, but federal
records show that there are
hundreds of licensees with
What’s not clear is how
many of them will perform
the checks. Many of the deal-
ers lobbied against the law
and are hesitant to be seen as
supporting it.
We don’t really know
(how many more
background checks
will be conducted).
this is a big cultural
change for oregon.
— Dave Piercy
Karl Durkheimer, who
along with his wife owns two
stores in the Portland area,
refused to allow Everytown
to film at his business and
said he’s still unsure about
whether he’ll provide back-
ground checks for private
Durkheimer said he
doesn’t want to get blamed for
bad service if the checks run
into delays and wasn’t sure
the state has thought through
the procedures for how these
checks would be conducted.
Fred Meyer, which has
licenses to sell firearms at
20 of its stores, has decided
not to perform the new back-
ground checks, said spokes-
woman Melinda Merrill.
“We have a wider clien-
tele in our stores,” she said,
“so we prefer to just con-
duct background checks for
customers who purchase”
Adam Braatz, owner of
Mazama Sporting Goods in
Eugene, said he has always
performed background
checks for private sellers who
wanted to do it voluntarily
and he plans to continue to
offer the service. He said a
Eugene police detective came
by the store to explain how
the new system will work.
Okamoto, the Ceasefire
Oregon director said that
“with more licensed firearms
dealers than post offices, I
don’t think the lack of dealers
will be a problem.”
Piercy, the state police
firearms unit manager, said
he’s added three temporary
workers to his staff to ensure
they can meet added demand.
But he said no one knows
how many private transfers
take place every year, and that
it will be hard for the state to
know how many people are
complying with the new law.