By STEVEN DUBOIS | Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon attracts many people from elsewhere, and a new law Thursday allows some of them to get a concealed handgun license.
State law generally prohibits people with drug convictions from getting a license to carry a concealed handgun. But Oregon reduced the severity of marijuana possession charges in 1973, and has long allowed residents with one minor pot offense to obtain a license.
That exception, however, did not apply to Oregonians who got caught with an identical amount of marijuana in another state.
Starting New Year's Day, it will. It's one of several incremental or otherwise low-profile laws going into effect this week. The most anticipated new law of 2015, marijuana legalization, takes effect in six months.
The Oregon State Sheriffs' Association pushed House Bill 4068, which was sponsored by Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, and Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, and overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate. County sheriffs are responsible for issuing concealed handgun licenses, and the association said it wanted “across-the-board consistency” regarding marijuana convictions.
“It's just a matter of fairness,” Thatcher said. “Turning people down where they wouldn't have been turned down if the conviction happened in Oregon doesn't seem to make sense.”
Nearly 200,000 Oregonians had a concealed handgun license as of July. It's unknown how many people have been thwarted from getting one because of a pot conviction in another state.
Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, helped write a similar bill that was considered in the 2013 session but did not pass. He was pleased it was approved this year by a Democratic-controlled Senate he considers “extremely anti-gun.”
“I can't tell you why things go the way they do,” he said.
Gun control advocates did not see the need to change the law. Penny Okamoto, director of Ceasefire Oregon, said she'd like to see more training for people with concealed handgun licenses.
With marijuana becoming legal in a few months, Okamoto worries about the mixing of guns and drugs, whether it's pot, alcohol, prescription medication or something else.
“The news is rife with people intoxicated in some fashion making bad choices,” she said.
Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub.