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Opponents set for ugly legislative gunfight in the Oregon capitol

By   /   January 9, 2013  /   News  /   14 Comments

Gun rights and control advocates gear up for a showdown in the 2013 legislative session.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

PORTLAND – With emotions still raw from the Clackamas Town Center shooting and the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, both sides of the gun debate in Oregon are readying for a showdown.

“I have never, in the entire time I have worked in this business, seen what I’m seeing now,” said Kevin Starrett, who founded the Oregon Firearms Federation in 1998. “It is literally a madhouse. It’s not like we are gearing up. It’s just everybody is working all the time and we can’t keep up.”

Starrett predicted the 2013 session, which begins Feb. 4, is “going to be a very, very ugly hideous fight.”

On the upside: his group has seen an increase in membership since the shootings, and Starrett said he’s getting back-to-back calls from gun owners worried about new legislation limiting their right to bear arms.

“If you go to any place that sells guns, you would think they were robbed,” he said.

The Oregonian reported last week that applications for concealed handgun licenses were up considerably in the Portland metro area since the shootings (300 percent in Washington County). Starrett said at his gun club he’s doubled the number of gun classes and tripled the size of participants. “It’s just madness,” he said.

Likewise, Ceasefire Oregon, a group that aims to reduce gun violence through regulation, is pretty busy, too.

“Never ever have I ever seen anything like this,” said Penny Okamoto, the group’s executive director. Okamoto said she’s heard from a lot of angry people who want increased rules for gun owners, including background checks and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazine that hold 10 or more rounds or bullets.

“I have never heard from so many people ever,” she said. “They’re really outraged. They want tighter gun laws. They want gun laws that make it less easy for felons and the mentally ill to access guns.”

Okamoto aso said her group is pushing for a prohibition on concealed-carry handguns in public schools, grades K-12.

State Rep. Dennis Richardson made national headlines when he recommended arming teachers and mall employees, and training concealed-carry permit holders to provide volunteer security on school campuses.

“We do not need to change current Oregon law,” he said. Oregon law allows concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in most places, including schools. Despite the law, many districts have banned weapons.

State Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, plans to introduce legislation that would go another step and allow public colleges and universities to ban all weapons from their campuses, including guns owned by Concealed Weapons Permit holders.  But, as Dembrow mentions in his recent newsletter to constituents, the state court of appeals ruled in 2011 that public institutions could not prohibit concealed weapons permit holders from bringing guns onto campus.

“I believe that it’s time to give them that explicit authority: institutions, whether public or private, should be able to make the decision that they feel is right for their campus and their students,” he said.

State Rep. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, plans to introduce legislation banning guns that accept 10 rounds or more, with exceptions.

And where Gov. John Kitzhaber is concerned, “nothing is off the table,” spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki said.

“The governor sees no reason for civilians to have assault weapons — period,” she said. “He’s directed staff to quickly research a range of options for him to consider on firearms regulation, mental health and school safety measures that could be the basis for a comprehensive approach to the problem.”

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.


Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • How can individual school districts rules trump state law ?

  • The crazy criminal types will still have guns. This is a really bad deal for women wanting to protect themselves

  • This is all based on hysterical emotions – it’s insane and I fear what will be in place when the dust settles. We need to throw cold water on the lot of them!

  • these people are born again idiots! talking about making more gun free victims only school zones? I have noticed a lot of this sort of thing since I moved to the pacific northwest!

  • In Texas it has

  • the worst laws are made in the peak of emotion. remember, a gun owner confronted the shooter.

  • they are pushing us towards civil war

  • The civil war has been in the courts and in the halls of the elected. Will it proceed to the next level? I hope not, but that is unlikely.

  • PleaseBeSmart

    They can’t. The Oregon courts have consistently upheld that. School can slap up signs saying you can’t bring your weapon on their campus, but if you have a CHL they can’t do ANYTHING about it.

  • PleaseBeSmart

    They won’t be the only ones with them. I don’t know a single firearm owner who would be willing to hand over anything.

  • Privatize schooling. That will get rid of Gun Free Zones. Then the schools can protect themselves.

  • PleaseBeSmart

    Texas has terrible gun laws.

  • Jaeger1121

    Seems like an easy fix would be to take all public funding from those public schools that try to ban concealed carriers.

    If they want to become private institutions and exist solely on their own funding, let them.

  • I cannot believe the stupidity of those people that have the delusion that a sign that says that a certain area is a gun free zone will magically stop a person who is willing to commit mass murder.

    Did you know that over the past fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a venue where guns were supposedly not allowed??

    I come from a country that has had some of the strictest gun laws in world for over thirty years, yet it has the highest gun homicide rate in the American Continent.

    I live and work in SW Portland in the downtown and as a resident of this city I am also concerned for safety, but, 90% percent of mass shootings have happened in “gun free zones”? People who are about to commit a mass shooting will not be deterred by a sign that prohibits to carry a firearm, in fact, it is more than likely that they will be encouraged by this. By creating a gun free zone you are statistically increasing the chance for a mass shooting to happen in that venue, please, I urge you to re think your strategy for gun control in PDX.

    Please read this well thought, researched and thorough article. It was written by an expert and uses FACTS to explain how to prevent mass shootings and why many gun control measures will not work in this country. It even uses the Clackamas Town Center incident as an example of how one single person with a concealed hand gun license can make a big difference.