A bill that would supply an extra avenue of recourse to Keizer residents impacted by shooting taking place at a Polk County quarry passed put of the Oregon Senate Committee on Judiciary with a 6-1 consensus Tuesday, April 9.
The bill (Senate Bill 1040), which is highly site-specific, allows the owner, operator, lessee of the property to be held liable for injuries resulting from bullets leaving the range. The individual discharging the firearm can also be held liable if the final bill passes both the houses of the Oregon Legislature.
The bill would only affect “an active quarry or mine located on property adjacent to the Willamette River in Polk County and across the river from the City of Keizer” after amendments to the original language were made.
Supporters and opponents of the bill turned out for a public hearing on the matter last week at the Capitol.
After closing a public hearing, Sen. Shemia Fagin called the original wording “a no-brainer. If you are going to own a property you should be taking care not to affect the property around you.”
During deliberations Tuesday, Sen. Floyd Prozanski questioned limiting the measure to active quarries vs. inactive ones.
Rich Angstrom, president of Oregon Concrete Aggregate Producers Association, said the change was made to separate the intended property, owned by Lance Davis, from others in the area.
“There is a difference between this site and closed quarry in the area also used for duck hunting. This was a request from River Bend Sand & Gravel which owns properties next door,” Angstrom said.
Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, added that active quarries, like the one where shooting occurred until a temporary injunction was issued by Polk County, are registered and permitted as active sites.
Sen. James Manning voiced concern over the lack of specificity in the bill regarding active and inactive sites, but still supported moving it forward.
“I think that the overall purpose of the bill is safety, but there are concerns about attacks on second amendment right. When a woman is almost struck with a bullet that is a safety issue. I’m still concerned about the definition,” Manning said. “A close call is a close call and it could have been prevented.”
Sen. Cliff Bentz asked about another part of the amended bill that he saw as potentially letting owners off the hook if “reasonable measures” were taken to prevent a bullet from straying off the property.
“Are we suggesting that now that a gate and signs are up, (the owners) are off the hook for reasonable damage?” Bentz asked.
Angstrom replied that there would be a tort aspect of any lawsuit that emerged from the legislation and an jury would decide what accounted for reasonable measures.
“It doesn’t seem to me that just a gate is reasonable,” Bentz said.
Only Sen. Dennis Linthicum withheld support from moving the bill to the floor say it was too site specific and redundant as a whole.
“Suddenly the whole state is involved when local injunction and restraining order seem to have solved the problem,” Linthicum said.
Floor hearings on the bill will occur on a date to be determined.