Oregon lawmakers passed gun control legislation Thursday, becoming the first state legislature to do so since the Parkland shooting. Lawmakers were inflamed by the recent shooting in Florida, where a teen gunman opened fire on teachers and students, killing 17 people.
The Oregon state legislature banned people convicted of domestic violence against partners they’re not married to from getting guns, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” in federal law. The bill, passed by the state Senate on Thursday, also bans people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from owning a gun.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk next. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has been lobbying for the bill she co-sponsored, and recently testified before local lawmakers, citing 66 fatalities in the state due to domestic violence in the past two years. On Thursday, she said that she looks forward to signing the bill into law.
“Closing the ‘Intimate Partner Loophole’ is an important step to keep Oregonians safer, and to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” she said in a statement. “Passing this bill was a priority for me this session, but we know there’s more that must be done.” The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Oregon a C on gun laws in 2016.
In addition to addressing gun control, the measure addresses a serious public health problem: domestic violence.
Domestic abuse is a significant corollary in mass shootings. Research shows a majority of mass shootings between 2009 to 2016 — particularly those with fewer than ten victims — were linked to domestic violence. The Parkland shooter also allegedly had been abusive to his ex-girlfriend, signalling yet again that toxic masculinity plays a central role in shootings.
The passage of Oregon’s bill marks a significant moment for gun-control advocates, who have been demanding action from lawmakers instead of simply thoughts and prayers. It’s been a generation since federal lawmakers have acted. In 1994, a Democratic-run Congress and President Bill Clinton (D) signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a wide-sweeping anti-crime proposal that included banning 19 types of semi-automatic firearms. And the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban bars convicted domestic abusers from possessing guns — but only if they were married to, living with, or had a child with their victim, thus the “boyfriend loophole.”
There’s some optimism that the recent wave of teen activism will prompt congressional action. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said universal background checks will be the Democratic party’s top priority. In 2013, after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Schumer was hopeful Congress would agree to expand background checks to cover almost all gun sales. But efforts for nearly-universal background checks failed. Lawmakers’ revival of universal background checks will not only address mass shootings, but other types of gun deaths.
“[I]t helps very much with domestic violence cases and suicide and other things. The reason Senator Schumer is focused on the bill is for that very reason,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Friday. “Of course there’s us who support assault weapon ban and support age limit on that, but I think what he’s trying to do is find something that would make a major difference closing this loophole and get the most support.”
Klobuchar also introduced a bill last year that would close the federal “boyfriend loophole.”