Contentious Or. Senate bill could ban concealed carry firearms in public buildings

SALEM, Ore.- State legislators are considering a bill that would prohibit the concealed carry of firearms in public buildings.

A Senate committee heard public testimony on the bill yesterday and thousands of Oregonians voiced their opinions. Many of them opposed the measure, feeling it unfairly targeted legal gun owners.

Senate Bill 554 would allow cities and counties to adopt ordinances banning concealed carry of firearms in public buildings, even if the person is licensed.

Republican State Senator Kim Thatcher is one of many people opposed to the bill, saying it unfairly targets legal gun owners.

“The bill is aimed squarely at concealed handgun licensees who have gone through the extra steps to carry legally,” Thatcher said.

The bill, if passed, would give power to more local, individual entities -like school boards and city councils- to decide if concealed firearms are allowed in their buildings. Thatcher fears it would set up a confusing checkerboard of policy.

“It is just going to be very confusing and hard to comply with. And I think that might be the goal, to make it confusing enough that people who are law abiding won’t want to be armed and I think that is the goal,” she explained. Like others against the bill, she also worries about safety in public buildings if there are no armed citizens.

“If you’re going to do this, you’re going to want to be sure that these entities are providing security just like the courthouses do,” Thatcher said.

Right now, Oregon law allows the carry of concealed weapons in public buildings, but Democratic State Senator Ginny Burdick says it’s an outdated rule.

“When affirmative defense was put into the law in 1969, there were very few concealed handgun licensees in Oregon. And now there are over 300,000,” Burdick explained. She is one of the Chief Sponsors of the bill.

She says its not about gun control, but about allowing people at the local level to decide.

“It is definitely not about gun control. It is about who gets to decide what safety in a public building is….leave it to the local governments themselves, the local entities, the school districts, the city councils, the county commissions,” she said.

The committee overseeing Senate Bill 554 will have a work session this Thursday to continue reviewing the bill.

This Senate Bill comes at the same time as a House Bill that would not allow gun sales without a state background check, closing a previous loophole that allowed the sale to go through if the background check took longer than 3 days.

Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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