A bill that might have addressed a shooting range across from Keizer in Polk County appears to have died with barely a whimper last week in the Oregon Legislature.
The bill (Senate Bill 1040) would have allowed the owner, operator, lessee of the property to be held liable for injuries resulting from bullets leaving the range. The individual discharging the firearm might also have been held liable if the final bill had gone to the governor’s desk.
Jonathan Lockwood, spokesperson for Sen. Kim Thatcher, didn’t mince words when it came to the disappointment over its death.
“Sen. Thatcher worked very hard to get this public safety bill passed, but the Democrat supermajority is prioritizing tax scams and trampling on the Constitution, so her renewed effort to revive this needed bill is a long-shot,” said Lockwood. “There is no reason this bill should have been killed, it was a constituent bill.”
Thatcher co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Bill Post.
After passing a vote during the third reading of the bill with a whopping 24-4 majority, the Senate Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing on the bill Monday, May 20. The Committee opted to deliberate on it the following day, but never did. SB 1040 appeared on the committee’s agenda on May 21 and 22 and then disappeared the following day without explanation.
“Real simply … this bill has to do with, call it a recalcitrant property owner, refusing to satisfy the city that had a safety situation. This bill creates another layer of protection,” said Thatcher during the May 20 public hearing.
Keizer City Attorney Shannon Johnson said the city is taking the position that the shooting on the property taking place is unsafe, generally, and the legislation “will add some impetus to keeping it safe.”
Shirley DeShon, who has lived for 30 years nearly directly across from where the shooting takes place, broke down as she described a September 2017 incident when bullets flew across the river and into trees.
“I would ask that you try to imagine having a barbecue with family and grandkids running around when those shots started hitting the trees. I realize that this bill gives a lot to a lot of people, but it’s not enough,” DeShon said. “I don’t want to come back here talking about dead bodies.”
Rich Angstrom, president of Oregon Concrete Aggregate Producers Association, said that incidents like the one in 2017 and another in 2018 where a bullet from the range penetrated a Keizer home are now being used to blame the property owner, Lance Davis, for all shooting taking place west of the Willamette River. He even went as far as accusing one resident of “manufacturing” evidence without naming the individual and providing only hearsay evidence of his own.
Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, said his group was taking a neutral stance on the bill.
Only Rep. Mitch Greenlick posed any questions to those providing testimony and it was over why the bill was so narrowly targeted to the owner of a single property.
“It seems that having a bill that targets one person is a poor use of the legislation when it should be broader,” Greenlick said.