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Gun law should go to voters


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It looks as though one of the more troubling new laws that resulted from this year’s Oregon Legislature could be overturned, by the voters, as soon as the November 2018 election.

We hope that’s what happens.

Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 719 largely along partisan lines, with Democrats favoring it and Republicans opposed, and Gov. Kate Brown signed it into law Aug. 16.

The law seeks to achieve a goal that’s indisputably worthwhile — reducing the state’s suicide rate — but goes about it in a way that’s constitutionally flawed.

The law allows a police officer, spouse, parent, child or sibling, or anyone living with a person they believe to be suicidal to ask a judge to sign an “extreme risk protection order” that would require the person to surrender any guns within 24 hours.

The law does not require the court to notify the person that someone has asked for a protection order. Nor does the law mandate that an attorney be required to represent the person who is alleged to be suicidal.

Instead, the person has to appeal the order and prove that he or she is not suicidal. Unless the matter is decided, the order, and the seizure of the guns, is in effect for a year.

As we argued in this space in May, while the Legislature was still debating the bill, it raises obvious potential conflicts with the Second Amendment.

Moreover, the law focuses on how a person might harm himself rather than the motivations. The latter is an immensely complicated matter, to be sure, and certainly the state can, and should, do more to ensure people with severe emotional problems have access to mental help.

But we’re not persuaded that a law that treats distraught people as though they were criminals is likely to improve the situation.

Two GOP lawmakers who opposed Senate Bill 719 — Mike Nearman of Independence and Bill Post of Keizer — have filed a petition that, if they collect sufficient signatures, would refer the law to voters, potentially in November 2018.

That’s the appropriate way to decide this issue.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of publisher Kari Borgen, editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.