Gov. Kate Brown aims to tighten gun control

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Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that she will back efforts to pass further gun control legislation in 2018, despite failures to pass her gun safety agenda during the last two legislative sessions.

Even if Brown fails again to find legislative success on controlling guns, expounding in favor of new restrictions may help her re-election bid. Ahead of the November 2018 governor’s election, Brown is engaged in a fundraising and public opinion battle with presumed Republican frontrunner Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend.

An outspoken proponent of gun control, Brown has counted gun control advocate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a key fundraiser. She accepted a $250,000 donation from Bloomberg during her last re-election campaign, in 2016, and the donation came shortly after Brown voiced support new gun restrictions.

Buehler said after the Las Vegas massacre that, in his view, new gun restrictions won’t stop “deranged madmen” from committing murder.

Since taking office in 2015, Brown has sought to pass laws that make it impossible to buy a gun without a background check and that keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers.

Oregon does have laws that mandate background checks and bar domestic abusers from gun ownership. But gun control advocates like Brown and other Democrats say there are loopholes.

One, termed the “Charleston loophole,” allows the purchase of a firearm if the background check takes too long to complete. It got its name after a mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., where a gunman who killed nine bought a weapon despite an incomplete background check.

Another, dubbed the “boyfriend loophole,” exists because legislation defining who is a domestic violence offender — and therefore banned from buying guns — doesn’t line up with existing criminal statute.

Brown announced that she will again push legislation to close those loopholes plus add those convicted of misdemeanor stalking to the list of people banned from owning guns.

“We, as lawmakers, must put politics aside and work together to keep our communities safe,” Brown said in an audio statement. She said changing the law will “keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

Despite shooting after shooting in Oregon and elsewhere — and complete dominance of the state House, Senate and governor’s office — Democrats have found little success on gun control.

Their most recent major victory was during the past legislative session, when lawmakers approved a law allowing judges to order guns taken away from people who pose a serious threat to themselves or their household members. But they needed a Republican to help them make that happen.

Their other major recent victory came in 2015, when the background check law first passed. But four lawmakers faced recall campaigns after that session, exemplifying the fraught politics of pushing for gun restrictions.

Since then, Democrats’ gun control efforts have mostly glitched or stalled outright.

Mere months after the state’s deadliest shooting, at Umpqua Community College, legislative Democrats could not eke out a victory on tightening the background check law. That’s despite talking-up the Charleston loophole bill and even bringing in the relative of a Charleston victim to testify.

In 2017, Democratic leaders again introduced a bill to close the Charleston loophole, and a bill to end the boyfriend loophole. Neither passed. Democratic leaders in the more-liberal House didn’t press the issue because they viewed it as best to avoid a politically dangerous vote for gun restrictions when it was far from certain that any restrictions would pass the Senate.