Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Monday expanding background checks for gun sales, changing the state’s law so that private gun sales will also require these checks.
The law has been praised by gun-control advocates and decried by opponents, which is what generally happens, but it still marks a relatively rare occurrence in the United States, where legislation tightening gun ownership or sales rarely becomes the law of the land.
Brown (D) told the Oregonian that when President Obama visited the state last week, she discussed the bill with him and told him that she intended to sign it.
Her office tweeted photos of her signing the bill Monday:
SB941 is an important step to keep guns out of hands of criminals/others whom law has determined should not have them pic.twitter.com/kUMkEJdvWy
— Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) May 11, 2015
“This is a huge victory that will save lives in Oregon by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people who will no longer be able to exploit the vast ‘Internet loophole’ to buy guns for cash in back alleys without a Brady background check,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. “Lives will be saved as a result.”
The new law, known as the “Oregon Firearms Safety Act,” passed by the state legislature last week and headed to the governor’s desk. It sparked recall petitions and overcame considerable opposition, making it through the state House of Representatives by just four votes.
“This misguided legislation will make lawbreakers out of average citizens,” the Oregon Republican Party said in a statement outlining its opposition to the bill. “The government does not have authority to register firearm sales between private parties. As such, this law is unjust and will create a black market in private party firearm sales, making it harder for law enforcement to do its job in investigating firearms-related crimes.”
The Brady Campaign said in a report last year since the “Brady Law” requiring background checks went into effect two decades earlier, these checks had stopped the sale of more than 2 million guns to convicted felons, fugitives and others. However, the same report said that 40 percent of guns sold in the United States were purchased without any background check.
Guns can be purchased at gun shows and online without being subject to the Brady checks, which is why the campaign says it is focusing on changing state laws to expand background checks.
In the wake of the December 2012 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school — which killed 20 children and six adults — President Obama and gun-control advocates pushed for an overhaul to the country’s gun laws. One of these changes would have expanded background checks, an idea favored by a sizable majority of Americans.
However, just four months after that shooting, the proposals fell apart in Congress amid heavy pressure from the gun-rights lobby. The New York Times studied the gun laws passed in the 12 months that followed the Newtown shooting and determined that nearly two-thirds of them loosened gun restrictions.
Some states have made moves towards tightening certain restrictions involving guns. Oregon is the sixth state to expand background checks to all gun purchases over the last two years, Gross said.
Last year, Washington state passed a gun-control law that created universal background checks for all gun sales, including those made online or at gun shows. Two years ago, tighter gun restrictions were also signed into law in states that were reeling from mass shootings: Connecticut, where the Newtoon shootings took place, and Colorado, where the Aurora movie theater shooting occurred five months before Newtown.