Oregon laws keep gun seller from stopping suicidal woman

The Gresham gun shop owner did something she had never done before, she asked the police to keep a disturbed woman from buying a gun. The seemingly traumatized woman asked the store owner to sell her a gun - not caring what kind, quality or price it was - and to load it for her. After refusing to sell the woman a firearm that day, the owner notified police, concerned that the potential buyer was planning to hurt herself or someone else.

Unfortunately, the Oregon State Police - the agency that runs background checks for all gun purchasers in the state - could do nothing. The next day the despondent woman bought a gun at another store after passing the required background check and fatally shot herself within hours.

The sad story highlights not only the state's inability to protect people intent on harming themselves or others but shows how the hands of gun sellers are tied as well.

Current regulations on gun sales

Federal and state laws regulate how individuals may operate businesses that sell guns or have shooting ranges. In many states, such as California, Oregon and Washington, a lawsuit may be filed against anyone who might have contributed to an injury or death caused by a firearm. This can include the business that sold the gun.

There are few laws in Oregon that ban gun sales to those with mental illness. Current regulations prohibit sales of firearms to people who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions by court order. Those who have voluntarily entered such facilities may buy a gun, however. According to The Oregonian, the Gresham woman voluntarily admitted herself into a psychiatric ward 13 times during the final year of her life and once called 911 telling the dispatcher she intended to hang herself.

Proposed gun laws in Oregon

Earlier this year, four proposed bills were under consideration by Oregon lawmakers. The measures include such provisions as:

  • Allowing K-12 school districts to prohibit all guns on school campuses with few exceptions
  • Requiring criminal background checks for private sales of guns except between family members
  • With exceptions for law enforcement and military, prohibiting weapons in public buildings or on public grounds

Although the bills have not made it to the floor for a vote in the Senate, gun control advocates are hoping they will be considered in the future. These issues are hotly contested by people on both sides of gun control issues. It is important for owners of gun shops and shooting ranges to be aware of possible law changes as the proposed laws may affect how they operate their businesses.

Consult a lawyer

If you own or operate a business that sells firearms or operates a shooting range, consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable about shooting and gun laws.