An American’s right to own guns is enshrined in the Second Amendment, and broadly speaking, little except a felony, domestic violence conviction or commitment to a mental hospital can block it.
But Oregon lawmakers felt a growing sense of unease about people in potentially life-endangering circumstances like Jason’s having unfettered access to guns.
On the heels of a gun suicide in one lawmaker’s family and amid confessions of domestic violence in another’s, the Oregon Legislature narrowly passed a law in 2017 giving judges discretion to pry guns from people not convicted of a crime who show signs they might shoot themselves or someone else.
Under the new law, police, family members or roommates can petition a judge for an “extreme risk protection order” barring gun possession. If an order is granted, the person named in it has 24 hours to turn over all guns to law enforcement, a qualified third party or gun dealer. The order stands for a year but can be extended indefinitely by a judge.
To understand the ramifications of Oregon’s law since it took effect in January, The Oregonian/OregonLive reviewed hundreds of pages of court filings, listened to hours of courtroom audio and conducted interviews with people who lost their gun rights or tried to get someone’s weapons taken away. Apart from law enforcement officers, nearly all who spoke on the record did so on the condition that their name not be used, given the personal and sensitive nature of the cases.
That analysis revealed that, in the law’s first four months, Oregonians in 16 counties used it to try to get weapons out of the hands of nearly 30 people, most of whom were operating at a potentially deadly nexus of substance abuse, anger and gun ownership.
Tracking those cases wasn’t easy. There is no clearinghouse, and records aren’t listed on public dockets. The Oregonian/OregonLive filed public records requests with state court administrators, who sought documents from their counterparts in all 36 counties.
The news outlet reviewed case files showing 27 instances in which a person sought a no-guns order. They represent all or virtually all cases brought from January 1 through April 30. None of those cases has been previously reported.
Judges ordered guns taken away in 24 of them.