GRANTS PASS, Ore.—
Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading gun control group backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is campaigning to require those wishing to buy a gun to go through universal background checks. Currently, their efforts are specifically focused on Oregon.
Everytown backed a voter-approved initiative in Washington last year making the state the 17th to expand background checks past the federal law requiring a background check by licensed gun dealers.
“This is our top priority,” Erika Soto Lamb, the group’s spokeswoman, said.
The group spent millions of dollars on political operations. In Oregon, the state legislature narrowly failed to pass legislation two years running to require background checks for private gun sales. According to state records, Everytown spent nearly $600,000 on the 2014 election — $450,000 in contributions to candidates and committees, and $110,000 on other grassroots efforts.
Part of that money was devoted to strengthening the Democratic majority in the state Senate. The party now holds a stronger majority by two seats to 18-12 in the Senate. Gov. John Kitzhaber is a longtime supporter of and is expected to sign the bill if it passes.
“There’s a loophole there that can be closed,” Lamb said.
In 2000, Oregon voters extended background checks to require them for sales at gun shows the new bill would require anyone selling a gun privately to call state police for a background check on the buyer’s criminal history and mental illness. Guns sold to family members, antique guns, and inherited guns would be excluded from the new law.
“I want to put closure on the only loophole we have on the background check law,” said Prozanksi, a native Texan who owns a few guns. “Most all of us gun owners, as well as the general public, believe we should take reasonable steps to stop felons from getting easy access to guns. This will do that.”
Opponents include Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose and the National Rifle Association.
“The NRA is not privy to the specifics of the legislation, but Oregonians should not be fooled by the rhetoric from out of state gun control groups funded by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said. “They are pushing an extreme anti-gun agenda that seeks to curtail Oregonians’ constitutional right to self-defense.”
Under federal law, background checks are required for sales by licensed gun dealers, but not at gun shows or private transactions. The checks search for convicted felons, people under indictment, the mentally ill, drug users, people under restraining orders, dishonorably discharged veterans, and people in the country illegally.
Johnson believes the many shootings Oregon has experienced could have been stopped by background checks.
“It puts law abiding citizens at a significant disadvantage,” she said. “And it does not touch the problem, which in most cases involves severely mentally ill, disaffected, alienated young people causing mayhem.”
Prozanski hopes that, with the increased number of Democrats favoring gun control in the Senate, he can overcome Johnson’s opposition.