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Report: Governor mulls special session aimed at guns

State Sen. Golden says governor’s office ‘inundated’ with calls following Texas mass shooting

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office has been “inundated” with requests to call a special session in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. The governor is deciding whether to summon legislators to deal with issues raised by the massacre, according to state Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland.

Golden said in an email the governor is “likely in the process of making a decision” about calling legislators back to Salem for a special session. The Mail Tribune has contacted the governor’s office for comment and did not hear back immediately.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School left 19 children and two teachers dead, as well as 17 people injured.

The suspect, Salvador Ramos, used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill his victims before he was killed by a group of U.S. Border Control tactical agents who stormed the room. A nationwide uproar has occurred after the public realized police remained outside the school building as the shooting inside continued.

“Like everyone, I am shocked — almost speechless — and really, really tired of hearing about all the ‘hopes and prayers’ that high-profile people are directing to Texas,” Golden stated.

He said he expects serious deliberation — not “more hopes and prayers” — among Oregon’s state legislators to “get at the deadly intersection of mental illness and easy availability of weapons suited to mass shootings.”

Golden said such actions as strengthening background checks and addressing loopholes in existing gun laws are among things that need to happen as lawmakers “sustain and better focus the commitment to serious mental health funding.”

“Something is terribly, tragically wrong in our nation,” said state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland. It has been building for a long time, and it is getting worse. Our inability to adopt rational measures and reduce gun violence is just part of it. My instinct is that what is missing is trust. We have lost the ability to trust each other — to trust our neighbors and to trust our leaders to keep us safe.”

Marsh said she wants to see Oregon legislators take action to conduct more comprehensive background checks. HB 2543, introduced during the 2021 legislative session, would have halted transfer or sale of firearms before background checks are completed.

Marsh also said the increase in ghost guns — weapons made with 3D printers or assembled at home with prefabricated parts — must be addressed, along with the availability of semiautomatic assault weapons.

Marsh also referred to the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket that left 10 people dead and three injured.

“If we can learn to trust our communities to rebuild from catastrophic fires, to prepare for challenges to come, perhaps we can trust our governments to take steps to stop the slaughter of innocent shoppers and precious children,” Marsh said.

The attack in Buffalo is considered to be a racist act because 11 of the 13 victims are Black. The suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, is alleged to have described his racist views in a lengthy piece posted online, according to news reports.

State Rep. Kim Wallan, R-Medford, recalled her time as a board member with the Medford School District and talked about efforts at that time to make sure there were enough counselors at school campuses to help students and School Resource Officers.

“Clearly, mental health is an issue here,” Wallan said about mass shootings and what legislators should consider. But she stressed that ensuring school campuses are “hard targets” for would-be attackers is a strong deterrent.

Law enforcement professionals are “less likely to forget” to follow campus safety protocols than busy staff members, instructors and administrators, Wallan said.

Wallan was opposed to SB238, a 2021 legislative proposal that would have stopped school districts from having law enforcement officers assigned to school campuses. She said Oregon legislators have approved a variety of bills pertaining to gun safety.

She also said that changes in the culture, mass media, social media and the pandemic all have affected the nation’s youth. The effects of having schools closed for a couple of years needs to be discussed and examined at length, she said.

“We’re going to be expecting fallout from the kids not being in school,” Wallan said. “We don’t know what that fallout will be, but there will be something.”

Ramos, who attacked the Texas elementary school, wasn’t known to suffer from mental health issues and had no criminal history, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School school shooting in December 2012, ranked Oregon 11th in the nation in terms of gun law “strength.”

The group wrote that Oregon has passed a broad range of gun safety laws in recent years, and that it’s behind ninth-ranked Washington and 10th-ranked Colorado in making progress on gun safety.

The group highlighted Oregon's “requirement that guns be securely stored whenever they are not in their owner’s immediate control, a prohibition on guns at the state Capitol and giving colleges and universities the authority to prohibit guns on their grounds.”

But it also pointed out that Oregon also has “practically no laws targeting the gun industry or product safety, and sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are still allowed.”

California is considered to have the nation’s strongest gun safety laws, according to the group. For more information, see https://everytownresearch.org/