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Kelly brings gun control road show to Oregon

Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, will testify in Salem, Ore. today for expanded background checks.
Dave Workman

UPDATE: Nine days after appearing before the Washington state House Judiciary Committee to push for so-called “universal background checks,” former astronaut Mark Kelly – husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords – was in Salem, Ore., today to support similar legislation in the Beaver State.

Kelly spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, supporting SB 1551, an “updated” version of a bill that was tried last year but, as the Statesman Journal noted, it failed to get a vote. There is some dispute whether this is the same measure with some tweaks, or a different bill, but that will be sorted out.

According to that newspaper's midday update on the hearing, Kelly told the committee, “When dangerous people get guns we are all vulnerable.”

However, under questioning from Sen. Betsy Close (R-Albany) about whether the gunman who shot his wife in Tucson three years ago passed a background check, Kelly reportedly acknowledged, “Yes, he did. If there were changes in the law in Arizona, he shouldn’t have…While mental illness is a component of this, you can’t allow a loophole that you can drive a truck through.”

But wait a minute, gun rights advocates counter, the man who pulled that trigger did not take advantage of some “loophole.” He purchased that gun at retail and passed a background check that was mandated by Congress more than 20 years ago as a solution to what was then called a “loophole.”

The Oregon bill contains exemptions for people transferring a firearm to:

(A) The person’s spouse or domestic partner;
(B) The person’s parent or stepparent;
(C) The person’s child or stepchild;
(D) The person’s sibling;
(E) The person’s grandparent;
(F) The person’s grandchild;
(G) The person’s niece or nephew; or
(H) The spouse or domestic partner of a person specified in subparagraphs (B) to (G) of this paragraph.
(b) A transfer that occurs because of the death of a firearm owner, if the transferor is
a personal representative as defined in ORS 111.005 or a trustee of a trust created in a will.

It is important that Kelly is challenged, whenever he appears to promote so-called "universal background checks," to explain how, if passed, such legislation would have prevented the kind of thing that happened to his wife, or the shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall, or any of the other high-profile shootings that have been used as an excuse to expand background checks, by legislation or – in the case of Washington – a public initiative.

Members of the Northwest Firearms forum on the Oregon side of the Columbia are not impressed with Kelly.

When he testified in Olympia last week in support of Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure, Kelly acknowledged that “This law will not be perfect. Law enforcement will not be able to police every transaction. Some criminals will still get guns. There will still be gun violence.”

But, he added, this measure, if adopted, will allow responsible gun owners to make sure their guns don’t end up in the hands of criminals. Oh, this law will prevent straw sales? This law will prevent burglary and theft? How would this law have stopped the man who shot Giffords? He bought the gun at a retail gun shop and passed a background check.

Kelly’s appearance today strongly suggests that the Pacific Northwest is definitely in the crosshairs of gun control proponents who desperately want a symbolic victory. Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns has given $30,000 to the I-594 campaign effort, and the battle over gun rights will likely get lots of attention as the elections approach this fall.


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