Oregon’s Universal Background Check – The emblem of corruption in Oregon politics, and a policy that has been a total failure.
Writer’s Note: this was originally published here in 2017, I’m migrating this piece to this platform. I plan to continue looking at this public policy.
As we move into another legislative session where anti-gun zealots will work to pass inane and baseless firearm regulation, let’s take a look back at the results of a 2015 initiative that Democrats and political pawns insisted would “save lives in Oregon”.
I’ve written a ton of details about the background of this legislation, including how Michael Bloomberg from New York bought Oregon Democrats for $200,000 to pass this policy, how Democrats jammed it down the throat of Oregonians claiming it was “emergency clauses” to enact it right away, and how Oregon Democrats insisted on limiting public testimony about this policy.
Oregon State Police release monthly reports about firearm background checks in Oregon and then tabulate it at the end of the year. OSP’s 2016 report is available in .pdf format here.
The Universal Background Check in 2016:
3,990 private gun transfers
14 gun transfers were denied
Zero arrests made, although 1 arrest warrant was requested.
Let’s put those numbers into context, also in 2016:
There were 302,725 total firearm transfers in Oregon logged through OSP.
2,591 were denied
26 people were arrested (and 14 arrest warrants requested)
Proponents of the UBC claimed 40% of all transactions are “private transfers” according to the best study they had. Using this number we can estimate there was approximately **504,541 total gun transfers in Oregon in 2016**, of these, 116,044 (about 23%) should have fallen under this new UBC regulation according to that same study.
This means only 3% of Oregon firearm owners are complying with this new law, a law that’s been in place for about 18 months.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, those 14 denied firearm transfers! That’s 14 less guns in the hands of criminals!” No, that’s not what happened. Of those 14 transactions being flagged, only 6 were to people prohibited from owning a gun, and 8 were because the gun was stolen (there is no data as to if either party knew the gun was stolen, but we can reasonably assume the buyer/seller wouldn’t take it to a gun store if they knew). Let’s further dive into those numbers:
3 were dismissed as “Investigation complete – no action.”
4 are still being investigated (still, weeks or months after the transaction happened)
3 were referred to a local District Attorney for further investigation (this means there’s possible criminal charges).
3 were referred to Local Jurisdiction (i.e., local or county police have been notified they should investigate this matter.
1 arrest warrant was requested
So, the actual results here is that – potentially – in all of 2016 – Oregon’s Universal Background Check might result in a single arrest warrant being issued, and 6 prohibited people walked out of a gun store after being denied, and 8 people discovered a gun in their possession was flagged as stolen.
What are the costs?
Is it worth us keeping this program around? No, it’s not. Most people presume background checks have a positive impact on reducing gun crime or gun risk. In fact, background checks like the NICS system do not reduce crime. They’re easily circumvented by prohibited people through a “Straw buy” which is having someone else complete a background check and then illegally giving the gun to another person. This is actually how most criminals acquire guns. Even worse, a number of gun dealers actively support straw buyers and selling to criminals, as the ATF admits that 8% of gun dealers are responsible for the majority of handguns used in crime - yet locally and nationally no one bothers investigating these small percentage of dealers. You must understand, there is one weird trick to reducing gun violence – no one in government wants to do it – they do this other crap instead. Because of straw buying, no effort to “increase background checks” will be successful. There are alternatives to background checks under federal law, and systems proposed that could do better – we should be moving to implement those solutions.
This Universal Background Check law is problematic in its implementation on numerous levels. The most alarming is that this law makes ordinary people and ordinary safe behavior a criminal offense. For example, imagine someone accidentally leaves a gun at your house. You’re now criminally liable for their accident, even if you took no action and had no idea it was at your residence. Imagine you acquire a gun through inheritance (i.e., your grandfather’s old hunting rifle) and you don’t want to keep it in your house, so you loan it to a friend to keep at their house in their gun safe – that’s also a criminal offense that actually happened to a well-meaning Pastor in Lake Oswego.
Next it’s important to understand that due to the nature of this law it’s very difficult to functionally prosecute people who knowingly disobey this law, even if cops wanted to. For example, the pastor who loaned his gun for safe keeping, the cops couldn’t prove anything even with a confession, so functionally this new law is useless for prosecutors and investigators. There’s ambiguity around the language of when you can “loan” a gun that’s meaningless to criminals. It took two years for the State of Washington to finally prosecute someone under this law – it’s horribly written.
Then, due to the complex and ambiguous nature of this policy, law abiding gun owners are made criminals just through simple behavior. Beyond looking at the case of the Pastor, let’s remember that only 3% of Oregon gun owners are complying with this law. The proponents of this law would have you believe that it’s universally praised by every gun owner – so either the proponents of the UBC were lying, or the UBC is so terribly inconvenience and confusing that supporters can’t follow it, or both. Simple practices of loaning a coworker a shotgun for a duck hunt could result in criminal charges.
If it’s so bad why do people push it? Why do people support it?
One guy is paying for all of this. Michael Bloomberg from New York. This asshole has been corrupting Oregon politics unapologetically for years. He gave $1.25 million dollars to Measure 90 (defeated by 70% of Oregonians), Bloomberg paid $200,000 to implement the Universal Background Check and influence elections, then in 2016 he donated $250,000 to Van Hoyle’s Secretary of State campaign because she implemented the UBC.
Governor Kate Brown has also taken $250,000 from Bloomberg, just a few months after she announced her “gun control platform”. It’s important to note that it’s odd to announce legislative plans when legislature is out of season, Governor Brown announced her plans specifically to court Bloomberg funding. Bloomberg and Oregon Democrats embody pay-to-play corrupt politics.
You see, Michael Bloomberg is buying up Democrat politicians for his own pet projects. Maybe you think New York Billionaires should have influence in Oregon elections for some reason, but this is a very dangerous game for Oregon and Oregon progressives. Bloomberg invested $65 million dollars in 2016 “overwhelmingly to … local gun control”. That’s just the tip of the ice berg, he also owns a school (named after himself) which pushes out academic papers myopically supporting his political beliefs. He creates astroturf organizations like “Moms Demand Action” and “Everytown for Gun Safety” – and at the local level these people are idiots spewing talking points they don’t even understand. Right now he’s paying to implement a law against a “Boyfriend Loophole” when in fact Oregon has never had this loophole.
Even if you do support anti-gun politics, Bloomberg is dangerous. For several years Oregon had a grass roots campaign to reduce gun violence through the group Ceasefire Oregon – and while I have dozens of critiques about this group – I think it’s commendable that they’re legitimately a grassroots organization. Now, because of Bloomberg, Oregon Democrats have totally ignored Ceasefire Oregon’s policy initiatives in favor of Bloomberg’s pet projects. This is exactly why out of state money in politics is so alarming: it’s silenced local activists. Anyone concerned about the sanctity of the political process should be alarmed that a billionaire in New York can simply donate less than 0.05% of his wealth and buy off our Governor who will then ignore local activists.
TL;DR - The gun control policy pushed in 2015, the one Democrats claimed would "save lives", was a disaster. No one has been arrested, no lives have been saved, and it's obfuscated gun law in such a way that even normal behavior of gun owners is now criminalized.
Do not trust anything Kate Brown or Oregon Democrats have to save about gun laws in Oregon - they're spewing lies to get more money from New York. Kate Brown is literally doing fund raising when she talks about anti-gun politics. Actual activists on the issue of gun violence in Oregon have totally different priorities, no matter which side of the issue you're on.