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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Hear From Public On Background Check Bill

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Tensions ran high at a hearing about expanding criminal background checks for gun transactions. Here, a state trooper looks on as a member of the audience accuses committee chair Floyd Prozanski of favoring supporters of the measure.

Oregon lawmakers appear to moving ahead on a measure that would require criminal background checks on most private gun sales.

A Senate panel heard testimony Wednesday on the measure, which could advance out of committee as soon as Thursday.

Background checks are required in Oregon for people buying guns at licensed dealers or at gun shows. The measure would extend that requirement to private party transactions, except for those involving family members.

Opponents such as Micky Garus of Dallas, Oregon said the proposal would not keep firearms out of the hands of felons.

"If somebody wants to commit murder, they're going to find a way to do it,” Garus said.

But supporters such as former Portland Police Chief Mike Reese called the current law a big loophole that allows crooks to easily obtain firearms.

"If I were to sell one of my guns, I would want to know that the buyer wasn't a criminal,” Reese said.

The Oregon State Police already allow private citizens to run a criminal background check on the person they're selling a gun to. This proposal would make it mandatory.

An Oregon State Police spokesman says the agency conducted 153 voluntary background checks on private party gun transactions last year.