In a country (and state) that's grown used to refrains of "too soon" after the massacres that occur at regular intervals, a vote in Oregon's House of Representatives this afternoon came at a poignant time.
A day after 17 people were gunned down at a Florida high school, Oregon representatives took up a bill expanding prohibitions on possessing guns for those who stalk or abuse their partners. House Bill 4145 changes state law to ensure those prohibitions would expand to people convicted of abusing or stalking their significant other, regardless of whether the two people are or have been married.
The legislation has been a priority of Governor Kate Brown, and, as with all gun legislation, has proved a lightning rod in this year's short session. Dozens of citizens have written in on the bill, and the NRA has urged it be killed.
But HB 4145 passed the house this morning 37 votes to 23, with three Republicans crossing the aisle to support the measure and one Democrat—Caddy McKeown of Coos Bay—voting no.
The closure of the so-called "boyfriend loophole" has virtually nothing to do with yesterday's massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in which a troubled 19-year-old is accused of gunning down his former schoolmates. Still, that tragedy couldn't help but weigh heavily on today's proceedings.
Rep. Richard Vial, one of the Republicans who supported the legislation, said on the House floor that he regretted the timing of the vote, and that his heart was broken.
More emotional testimony came from lawmakers who'd experienced or witnessed domestic violence.
Rep. Janeen Sollman spoke tearfully about the terror her father had wrought on her family growing up.
"When he drank he became unstable," Sollman said. "His choice of weapons were his words, his fists, our dishes, our pans, or whatever was there to grab in that moment of rage."
She closed by saying: " I believe for certain that if it weren't for my father’s absolute intense hatred for guns, our story would have a very different ending."
Rep. Jeff Barker, an Aloha Democrat and former Portland police officer, told of an apartment in Portland's Kenton neighborhood where he'd responded repeatedly to domestic violence calls. Until one night.
"We go out there and they said there’d been a shooting," Barker said "It comes back to me quite clearly. The apartment looked like a classic movie scene. Food on the wall... There was young mother dead on the floor."
The woman had tried to shield herself from the rifle, Barker said, and part of her hand had been shot off.
"The gun made the difference that night and ended that young woman’s life," he said.
Whether because of yesterday's tragedy or for other reasons, only one representative spoke against HB 4145 today: Rep. Andy Olson, a Republican from Albany.
Olson is a former state police officer who suggested today HB 4145 was imperfect because it wouldn't solve the problem of gun violence.
"I do not think that this bill is the answer to stop gun violence," Olson said. "A person can easily break into a car. They can easily break into a house to retrieve a firearm."
The bill, he said, would not "fix the systemic problems our state is facing." He did not suggest that anyone was claiming it would. But we should note that the state's Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team has plenty to say about the havoc guns cause in domestic violence situations each year.
Anyway, 22 representatives agreed with Olson—21 of them Republicans. Republican Reps. Knute Buehler (a gubernatorial candidate), Julie Parrish, and Vial supported the legislation.
The bill now moves to the Senate. As Willamette Week noted this week, its fate there is less certain.