SALEM, Ore. — An effort to repeal a new Oregon law that enables a court to order confiscation of a gun belonging to a person deemed at risk of suicide or hurting others has failed, its organizers said Thursday, after they failed to get enough signatures to place it on the ballot.
Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from the town of Independence who was the chief petitioner, blamed Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, saying her delay in signing the bill weeks after it was passed by the Legislature gave too little time to get enough signatures.
Petitioners had 90 days from the end of the Legislative session, which was July 7, to get the signatures but couldn’t begin to gather them until the governor signed the bill, which was Aug. 15. The opponents said they collected fewer than 25,000 signatures of the 58,142 they needed by Thursday.
The gun bill was championed by another Republican member of the Legislature, Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas. In advocating for the bill on May 1, he said it was aimed at preventing suicides among military veterans. A former Special Forces officer, Boquist cited the high number of suicides among veterans. His own stepson, a Navy veteran, committed suicide in 2016.
“In Oregon, on average it’s 150 veterans a year who commit suicide,” Boquist said.
The new law creates a process for a law enforcement officer or a household member to obtain an “extreme risk protection order” that prohibits a person from possessing a deadly weapon when a court finds that person is at risk of suicide or harming someone else.
The court would issue a statement telling the person: “You are required to surrender all deadly weapons in your custody, control or possession. You may not have in your custody or control, purchase, possess, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, deadly weapons while this order is in effect.”
State Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland and a chief sponsor of the bill, called the repeal campaign’s failure “a victory for Oregon.”
The new law “will help prevent suicide and other dangerous behavior,” she said.
In November, voters in Washington state approved a measure to reduce gun violence by taking firearms away from people who are found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others. Boquist used that law as a model for the bill in Oregon.
Boquist said Connecticut adopted a similar law in 1999, and that 700 to 800 confiscation orders have been issued since then, and are credited with saving lives.