During the first two months of any Oregon legislative session, early in the game, the fringe usually shows up. Single-issue, uncompromising intimidators beat their wedge issue drums for all to hear. The self-righteous anti-choice wackjobs — with their red roses and plastic fetuses — for example. And the angry Second Amendment crowd — with their paranoid delusions. These folks collectively make the Capitol building look more like a concentrated confederacy of dunces than usual. They are followed, of course, on April 15 by the tax nuts, another subgroup we’ll discuss later.
There is a Bonnie-and-Clyde feel during gun battles in the Capitol, funny but ultimately tragic. The anti-government constituent screams at you; in the case of the elected official, he challenges your most basic assumptions about cooperation and good government. Hostile, threatening if they want to be, I saw every type of citizen and lobbyist behavior, especially on gun issues.
Gun nuts, as you know come in two flavors. Left-wing gun nuts, like Democrat Sen. Ginny Burdick, are out to confiscate and melt down all our weapons into plowshares and maybe a few Volvos. Right-wing gun nuts on the other hand, like Republican House member Tim Freeman, would require a howitzer in every Oregon household. There is no moderate, tweener gun nut in Oregon anymore. They used to be called hunters.
Ginny Burdick is the Anti-Annie Oakley of Oregon. She drives the NRA crazy and that’s a good thing. She’s the kind of Portland “nanny government” liberal who invented those famous ODOT traffic signs you see at Willamette Pass: “Do Not Pass Snowplows On The Right.” Helpful, really, but somewhat obvious.
But apparently Ginny is hardening with age. Recently, she became so frustrated with slow drivers who don’t stay in the right lane on interstate highways that she’s introduced a bill that would make it a illegal to drive in the left lane unless you’re passing someone. With a $1,000 fine possible. Seriously! Several rabid Republican senators jumped on the bill and added a few friendly amendments: allowing drive-by shootings of slow drivers if the faster car has a semiautomatic rifleperson riding stagecoach as long as he/she is not concealed. Obviously, for safety reasons, it would be crazy to allow a possibly distracted driver to shoot, so that is specifically exempted. I mean, what if the driver was also on a cell phone? Talk about being a distracted driver!
In the House, Roseburg’s Tim Freeman has a bill that would invalidate all federal gun restrictions! Oregon law enforcement officers would be required to ignore them. Seriously? Oh, and get this. Rep. Freeman is so clever! He requested House bill number 3006 — get it? 30.06 or 30 ought six, everybody’s favorite rifle cartridge! Such a good ol’ boy.
Now, I know a lot of you are like me; honestly, you kinda look down at the House of Representatives, sort of a House of Commons — with commoners. But, just so you don’t think the Senate is any brighter, Sen. Brian Boquist from Dallas, a former federal congressional candidate, has cutely proposed a bill requiring background checks on knives; the Oregon State Police would be required to keep a state registry of all knives transferred in state. Get it, you nanny liberals? Dare I say “overkill”?
As I’ve said before, these silly measures would ultimately have to go through a Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by my friend Floyd Prozanski. We are all lucky in that regard. Floyd, a former prosecutor and a crime victim himself, has an amazing personal story regarding guns. His sister was shot to death by her boyfriend when she was 21 years old, a classic domestic violence case. She told him she was leaving; he killed her. Floyd was 18 at the time; he went to the morgue to identify the remains. That experience, in part, motivated him to become a lawyer and a legislator.
Floyd and I went into the House as freshmen together, along with Kitty Piercy and seven other Democrats in 1995. Floyd knows his way around guns. We have a skeet thrower and 20-guage shotguns and Floyd’s been out to our place with his 4-10 shotgun blasting away at the clay pigeon population; and — believe me — clay pigeons are not an endangered species based on our marksmanship.
Anyway, hopefully most of the absurd gun measures will disappear as this session of the Hot Air Society unfolds in Salem. I think Floyd Frank will see to that. Next up: Ways and Means.