Political battle over guns continues in Oregon five years after Sandy Hook massacre

KATU file image

Five years ago Thursday a gunman murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Since then a political battle over guns continues nationwide including Oregon where multiple gun laws have been passed since the massacre.

Conservatives say new gun laws often punish law-abiding citizens, but gun control advocates say more needs to be done to prevent mass shootings.

Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick told KATU she's proud of her and her colleagues' legislative accomplishments since Sandy Hook but feels much more needs to be done, particularly by the U.S. Congress.

"When you kill 20 children it just doesn't get much worse than that," Burdick said. "We don't talk about gun control we talk about gun safety. We don't talk about banning guns. We talk about keeping guns out of the wrong hands."

Some of the laws passed in Oregon since Sandy Hook include an expansion of the requirement for criminal background checks to include private sales of guns in 2015. Another law passed that same year gave police the authority to take guns from people convicted of domestic violence. And a law Burdick helped pass this year lets a court order the confiscation of a gun belonging to a person deemed at risk of suicide or hurting others.

"If we just get their guns away from them for a short time they may get the help they need," Burdick said. "We may save lives and we may save a school from being shot up."

But critics say that new law lacks enough due process, which Burdick denies.

"Responsible gun owners are very well protected in this measure for their due process," she said.

Kevin Hoar, the spokesman for Oregon's Republican Party, said the state has more of a crime problem than a gun problem.

"More often than not new gun laws seem to affect people who follow laws, law-abiding citizens, and not the criminals who by definition don't follow laws," Hoar said.

Burdick said she'd like to see bans on bump stocks that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons and bans on military-style assault weapons but feels those moves must be made at a national level.

"On this issue, the Republicans have locked up in favor of the NRA and against public safety," Burdick said. "The only way we're gonna get any improvement in the gun safety area is to change Congress and elect Democrats."

Hoar points out that in 2016 Democrats including Gov. Kate Brown and Val Hoyle, a former state representative and secretary of state candidate, took a half-million dollars in campaign cash from Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former mayor of New York City.

Hoar said Bloomberg, a national advocate for gun control, is an elitist attempting to change things from afar.

Hoyle and Thomas Wheatley, a senior adviser for Brown, said Bloomberg is known for advocating for multiple issues.

"I wouldn't characterize him as a single-issue contributor focused solely on gun violence prevention," Wheatley said via email. "His philanthropic and political giving also address environment, public health, education and other topics."

Bloomberg Philanthropies did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

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