Gun Violence

How Is Oregon Working to Prevent Mass Shootings?

Our state’s gun laws, gun violence, and what you can do about it.

By Fiona McCann June 3, 2022

In the past three weeks alone, three mass shootings have rocked the country—in Buffalo, in Uvalde, in Tulsa—reigniting a debate about gun laws and pushing many Oregonians to look more closely at our state’s history of mass shootings and pay special attention to our progress—or lack thereof—on gun safety.

According to gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety, it’s been seven years since Oregon’s last mass shooting, when a 26-year-old shooter killed eight students and an assistant professor at Roseburg's Umpqua Community College, injuring eight more, in 2015.  A year before, a Reynolds High School student shot and killed another student at school and wounded a teacher before fatally shooting himself. And two years before that, a shooter killed two people before taking his own life at the Clackamas Town Center. In fact, even before the horrific shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, Oregon had its own school shooting, when in 1998 a 15-year-old in Springfield fatally shot two students and injured 25 more at Thurston High School, after killing both his parents in their home.  

It's not just in the past. Gun violence is on the rise in Portland again this year, with an average of more than 20 shootings per week in 2022, according to the Portland police. Guns are still killing Oregonians. So what have we done in the quarter century since Thurston?

Oregon's Gun Laws

Just last year, the state passed a safe storage law, requiring gun owners to store firearms in a gun room, safe, or use a trigger lock when not in use. Two years before, Oregon closed the "boyfriend loophole," expanding the definition of domestic abusers to include intimate partners, which means they are prohibited from purchasing a gun and must relinquish firearms they already own. The state had already enacted a Red Flag law in 2017, allowing for law enforcement or family members to ask a court to prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns, and a background check law in 2015. (How strictly these laws are being enforced across the state is an open question, though.)

Our current gubernatorial candidates have vastly different voting records on gun safety. Former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, the Democratic candidate, voted for all three recent laws, while former State Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Democrat-turned-Independent and gun collector who was given a 100 percent rating by the National Rifle Association in 2020, voted against them. Former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, a Republican, was not in the legislature to vote on those particular bills. But  in the wake of Uvalde, Drazan has called for investing in school resource officers and “ensuring that individuals who should not have access to a classroom do not gain access to a classroom.” Her website says she boasts an A rating from the NRA.

What You Can Do

 Donate:  There are a number of organizations dedicated to gun violence prevention, including Everytown for Gun SafetySandy Hook PromiseMoms Demand ActionStudents Demand Action, and, locally, Ceasefire Oregon

Educate: Learn how to file an extreme risk protection order, plus basic firearm safety. Ask about the presence of guns anywhere your children will be playing, vacationing, or living, teach them what to do if they find a gun, and talk to them about gun safety. 

Act: Volunteer with the local chapter of a gun violence prevention organization, contact your local and national elected officials and urge them to pass commonsense gun laws, and raise awareness about gun violence in your community. Or you can add your name to the Lift Every Voice ballot initiative petition looking to ban ammunition magazines over ten rounds and put a comprehensive gun permit process in place.

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