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Opposition to Oregon Senate Bill 554

Senator Dembrow,

Senate Bill 554 asks an impoverished single mom who carries a handgun for self defense against an abusive ex either to go defenseless or to risk being held criminally liable, separated from her children, and imprisoned as a felon for having to pick up her sick kid from school. Or rush to get to them at the hospital. And many other scenarios.

I am a constituent and a registered Democrat who voted for you in 2016 and 2020. I have appreciated your representation and your consistent, thoughtful communications with the community throughout the pandemic. I also primarily get around by public transit, biking, and walking. I am a gun owner for self/family defense and for sport.

SB554 has discriminatory effects and disproportionately restricts those who rely on transit or who avoid relying on cars to get around. This legislation seems not overly burdensome, albeit ineffectual, if you consider only Oregonians who get around by private vehicle. It’s not a huge ask to require a CHL carrier to leave their firearm in their car while they run into school to pick up their sick kid in the middle of the day. It’s quite another for someone who relies on the bus. They will be required to leave their firearm at home altogether because they might have to pick up their kid. No one can predict when their kid is going to get sick.

I’m a reasonably well off white guy with a family who chooses to get around without a car as much as possible. But if need be, people like me can drive their cars more to accommodate this legislation (not that we want to encourage more driving). But who doesn’t get to choose to drive their private vehicle to work? People who can’t afford it. These are disproportionately racial minorities and others who are among our most vulnerable community members.

This same population has also been over-represented in CHL applications and first-time handgun purchases throughout 2020 and 2021, as the risk and inefficacy of calling the police for defense has been highlighted this past year. Women of all races are also buying and applying at a disproportionately high rate. Racial minorities and women increasingly see the need for personal defense, now outstripping the traditional demographic for CHL carriers. SB554 tells them they’re wrong.

Gun violence is horrific and damaging to our community, especially so to the victims of gun violence and their families. We as a society need to prioritize doing the work that mitigates this plague. But SB554 instead turns some of the most vulnerable among us into criminals, and it does nothing to stop the most criminal among us.

Is the threat of a few more years of prison likely to act as a deterrent for those who go into these establishments with violent intentions to commit acts that already incur much harsher penalties? It’s gruesome to think of, but looking back through the past decade, a sizable majority of CHL carriers who instigated any sort of gun violence—not just with concealed handguns—also killed themselves. Are these violently pathological people going to be deterred by the threat of being held criminally liable for carrying in a forbidden area?

I understand as a sponsor of this bill you are unlikely to decide to abandon it, much less to vote against it. But I do hope that if this perspective was something you hadn’t previously considered, going forward it will prompt you to focus on alternative, effective approaches to mitigating gun violence. There are methods that are shown to work by addressing the root causes of the disease rather than penalizing those who are simply trying to defend themselves while living in a society that won’t. The Liberal Gun Club has helpful ideas and information about root cause mitigation at:

Please feel welcome to reach out if you ever are interested in hearing the perspective of a liberal gun owner. And as always, thank you for your thoughtful representation in Oregon’s legislature.


Clay Fouts

Portland, Oregon