SALEM, OR (KPTV) - It was a full house inside a State Capitol hearing room on Friday.
Dozens of people made their voices heard on HB 4005, which would create gun storage requirements and make gun owners liable for harm done with a firearm that was not properly stored under the law.
"Gun violence in the United States is a public health crisis," Rep. Janeen Sollman said in her opening statements to the House Judiciary Committee.
Sollman, one of the chief sponsors of HB 4005 along with representatives Rachel Prusak and Alissa Keny-Guyer, said she believes the gun safety bill could help save lives, comparing it to Oregon's seat belt law.
As it is currently drafted, the bill would require gun owners to secure firearms that are not in use with a trigger or cable lock, or inside a secure container or room "except in specified circumstances
The bill also says anybody who does not lock a firearm properly is strictly liable for injuries or harm to a person or property committed with that firearm within two years after the violation, even if the firearm was stolen. There are exceptions to this stipulation, including if the firearm owner reports the loss or theft of the firearm within 72 hours "of the time a person knew or reasonably should have known of loss or theft."
Opponents believe these restrictions would equate to time lost in a life-threatening situation.
"Seconds count when danger is present," Elaine Woods testified. "To unlock a container and then have to release a trigger lock or cable lock when someone is trying to or has already gotten into our home is putting us in danger."
Others who testified Friday, like Tom O'Connor, say quick-access safes and other products are readily available that would ensure firearms are secured but still reachable in a moments notice.
"These types of safes can be opened in a matter of seconds," O'Connor said. "As a gun owner I believe that with rights come responsibilities.”
Carol Manstrom also spoke before the committee Friday. Manstrom's son, Will, died by suicide three years ago with an unsecured gun that belonged to his father.
"If a loaded gun wasn't accessible to Will, I believe he would be with us today," Manstrom said.
Other opponents testified that they don't think the bill will help address suicide rates, which Rep. Sollman pointed out are 20 percent higher in Oregon than the rest of the nation.
"Instead of punishing gun owners, why not increase punishment on criminals who use stolen guns," Alek Skarlatos asked. Skarlatos has been internationally recognized for his heroic act back in 2015, when he helped stop a gunman on a Paris-bound train.
Many representatives for state and national gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association and the Oregon Firearms Federation, were represented in the hearing.
On the other side of the issue, Moms Demand Action and people working in the education and health fields testified or were present at the hearing in support of the bill.
The next scheduled hearing for HB 4005 is Wednesday, Feb. 12, when the committee members will decide whether or not to vote the bill forward.
More information on HB 4005, and to read the bill in its entirety, click here.
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