SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A bill prohibiting domestic abusers and people under restraining orders from owning firearms became America’s first new gun control law since the Feb. 14 Florida high school massacre.
“Well done Oregon,” Democratic Gov. Kate Brown exclaimed Monday after signing the law on the steps of the state Capitol as some 200 people, including victims of domestic abuse and high school students, applauded and cheered.
State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, whose sister was fatally shot by her boyfriend, and Rep. Janeen Sollman, who fled her home as a child when her father was in a violent rage, hugged as they stood behind the governor.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people has created a wave of young anti-gun activists that has now reached cross-country into Oregon. Students from a high school in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego traveled 40 miles (65 kilometers) to stage a gun-control rally in the state capital, Salem, Monday morning.
“We are empowered youth,” they chanted, while holding signs that read “End gun violence, our lives matter,” and “Together we can end gun violence.” “We want to promote change. We’re tired of the massive number of school shootings and the massive lack of action,” said 15-year-old student Eli Counce.
Scarlett Scott-Buck, another student, said she came to protest “because I’m scared to attend my own school. And I’m here to be an activist for my rights — to live, my friends’ rights to live, and my mother’s fear.”
Brown came down from her office to speak to the more than 100 students from Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, who sat on a broad stairway underneath the Capitol rotunda. She urged those who are 18 to register to vote.
“You want what?” she asked them. “Change,” they shouted in unison. “How do you make change?” Brown asked. “Vote!” the students shouted. A couple of hours later, Brown met in her office with a dozen students from different schools. They agreed more needs to be done, including expanded access to mental health counseling to prevent unstable students from reaching the breaking point and committing violence.
But some students said gun control is also needed. “Nationally, I think there needs to be things like assault rifle bans but also closing the gun-show loophole … and making it so background checks aren’t time limited,” said student Eamon Walsh as he left the governor’s office.
Such a time limit allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun he’s accused of using to kill nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. in 2015, Walsh noted. The bill that Brown signed Monday closes a loophole in a 2015 law that excluded some abusers from the ban on buying or owning guns and ammunition, such as people who they don’t live with the partner they’re abusing or threatening, and those under restraining orders.
The measure was introduced before the Feb. 14, Florida shooting, but Brown emphasized the bloodshed as she lobbied the Oregon Legislature for passage and signed the bill.