Oregon’s Gun Background Check System a Colossal Failure

Oregon state Senator Floyd Prozanski speaks at the podium, as state representative Jennifer Williamson, Brady Campaign's Dan Gross, and Robert Yuille from Gun Owners For Responsible Ownership look on. April, 2015.

Oregon state Senator Floyd Prozanski speaks at the podium, as state representative Jennifer Williamson, Brady Campaign’s Dan Gross, and Robert Yuille from Gun Owners For Responsible Ownership look on. April, 2015.

Oregon legislators want to task the Oregon State Police with even more responsibility, even though they lack the resources to do what is already being asked of them.

In particular, the background check system for firearms purchases is a complete disaster. Under law, they are required to investigate every background check that comes back as denied, as it is illegal for a prohibited person to even attempt to purchase a firearm. There were 2,135 denials last year, out of 262,835 background checks run. That’s a rate of .81%. Of those 2,135, a grand total of 41 were arrested, 116 were cited, 745 were referred to the DA, 463 were passed off local jurisdiction, and 166 are still being investigated. 547 were filed under “investigation completed, no action”, and 57 are under appeal.

That means that at least 547 people were wrongly denied their 2nd Amendment rights. If this system worked as intended, then all 2,135 people would be locked up and charged with attempting to purchase a firearm. Instead, only 41 were arrested. Total. That’s only 1.9% of the total denials. The rest, who were not cleared of any wrong doing, were free to continue walk the streets, despite, apparently, being felons, fugitives, or having been adjudicated mentally ill.

When a person fills out the ATF form 4473 at their local gun shop, they have to put down all of their personal information, and the gun dealer looks at their ID and takes their finger prints. Law enforcement can easily access this information at the dealer, and they would know exactly who the person was, where they live, SSN, and other potentially valuable information that would help in the case.

Instead, the OSP lacks the resources to pursue these cases. As State Senator Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward said last year, leading up to the vote on last year’s universal background check bill, “We don’t have enough money to pay for the number of state police that we think we should have to adequately cover the state, even the stuff that we’re already supposed to be doing”. Of course, she went on to vote for the expanded background checks, putting even more of a burden on the already stretched thin police agency.

The “universal background check” law went into effect on August 9th, 2015. From that day until the end of the year, there were a total of 984 private sale background checks conducted. All through the hearings on the bill, SB941, we were told that 40% of all gun sales take place in private, person-to-person sales. If that’s true, then why were there only 984 background checks conducted in such transactions?

Going through the records from August, 2015, through December, there were 129,998 background checks conducted in the state, minus the 984 private sales, would leave us with 129,014 background checks through dealers, which, according to Everytown and Moms Demand Action, would account for 60% of the total. That means we should have had 215,023 total sales during that period of time, with private sales accounting for 86,009 of them. Instead, we see a total of 1.1% of the sales being those between private parties.

Either Moms Demand Action is lying, or 85,000 people didn’t pay attention to the new law, and no one cared, as no one has been charged with not conducting a background check.

To add insult to injury, out of those 984 private party background checks, a whopping 5 people were denied, which is a lower rate than those who are denied at FFL gun dealers. Out of those 5, a grand total of ONE was ultimately arrested.

The numbers from 2015 can be found here, at the Oregon State Police website.

Fast forward to today, and Moms Demand Action, along with state Rep Jennifer Williamson, have invented another loophole, this time dubbing it as the “Charleston Loophole”. When a background check approval is delayed, the FBI and/or OSP have 3 business days to complete the investigation to determine a denial or approval. If they cannot make a determination, the sale can proceed. Most gun shops do not proceed with the sale, and instead leave the 4473 form sitting the pile with all the rest. Many of these never end up with a determination. Williamson and Moms Demand Action are seeking to forbid the transfer of any firearm that does not get approval, thereby putting the people on the delayed list into an indefinite suspension of civil rights.

According Rep Williamson’s own words, there were 6492 delays in 2015, and only 324 were ultimately denied, about 5%. She spins this as “people who are delayed are FIVE TIMES more likely to be denied”, but what she doesn’t seem to care about are the other 95% who are unfairly delayed, 6167 people. In fact, Williamson lied to her constituents at a recent town hall, by saying only 1800 people were delayed in 2015, and saying that 500 went on to be denied.

During the recent hearing on this infinite delay bill, Kevin Starrett, of the Oregon Firearms Federation, pointed out many flaws with the current background check system, as he often does at public hearings. Much of the statistics and info can be found at his organization’s webpage.

All in all, the Oregon background check system is a colossal failure, and too many people end up erroneously denied or delayed. Jennifer Williamson, Moms Demand Action, Ceasefire Oregon, Oregon Alliance For Gun Safety, Gun Owners For Responsible Ownership, and other organizations are either completely oblivious to reality, or they are intentionally seeking any and every way possible to deny good people, with clean records, from having their guaranteed Constitutional rights.

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