SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon state Senate will soon vote on a bill that could limit whether concealed handguns are allowed in public buildings. Senate Bill 554 would let local jurisdictions decide whether to allow guns in airports, schools, and other public spaces — legally concealed or not.
SB 554 was introduced by several leading Democratic Senators, including Senator Ginny Burdick and Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner. Thursday morning, the Senate Committee on Judiciary approved the bill for a vote on the Senate floor.
“As a father of teenagers, the conversations around safety in schools and the risk of gun violence are all too frequent. Guns have no place in schools. Senate Bill 554 takes a reasonable and commonsense step to improve the safety of our kids. I’m proud to support this bill,” said Senator Wagner.
As written, the bill would allow city and county governments, school districts, colleges and universities, metropolitan service districts, or airport authorities to adopt an ordinance "limiting or precluding the use of the affirmative defense" by people licensed to carry a concealed handgun.
Buildings that could be covered by the bill include airport passenger terminals, hospitals, capitol buildings, public or private schools and universities, a city hall, or the residence of any state official — including the adjoining grounds.
The bill requires that any entity that adopts this kind of ordinance post visible signs showing where these limits are in place. Violations of these ordinances would have a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of up to $125,000, or both.
The fee due to a county sheriff's office for initial issuance of a concealed handgun license would also increase from $50 to $100, and renewal would cost $75.
“As former military, and a former law enforcement and corrections officer, I am proud to Chief Sponsor Senate Bill 554. In those roles, I saw time and again that the presence of firearms among civilians did not prevent violence, but made the situation more dangerous,” said Senator James Manning Jr. “Even if it is a ‘good guy’ with a gun, that gun can be misused, or used against the ‘good guy.’ Limiting the places and buildings where we allow firearms is a commonsense measure which will improve Oregonians’ safety, especially the safety of government employees who work on behalf of Oregonians in every corner of this great state.”
The bill saw opposition from Republican lawmakers who spoke at Thursday's hearing, including Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod and Senator Kim Thatcher.
“Thanks to our rigorous concealed carry licensing program in Oregon, CHL holders are the good guys with guns,” said Senator Girod in a statement. “This bill is a 'solution' in search of a problem. The sponsors have failed to bring forth any evidence that this bill would make anyone safer. It would do the opposite. With violent crime on the rise, we can’t afford to severely curtail Oregonians’ right to self-defense.”
Senate Republicans cited FBI statistics that almost 3.2 percent of active shooting situations in the US have been "stopped with someone with a CHL." Other research they cited found that Oregon CHL holders are relatively unlikely to commit felonies.
“Concealed carry license holders are some of the most upstanding people in our state,” said Senator Thatcher, who is the Vice-Chair of the Committee. “These people are the ones you would want to be your neighbors and friends because they protect their families and others around them. The last thing we should be doing is discouraging people from helping keep our communities safe by creating an inconsistent standard of laws across the state.”