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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.

Lawmakers Consider Closing Background Check 'Loophole'

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File photo. Gun sales in Oregon are allowed to go through if a background check isn't completed by the end of the next business day.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would close what some activists call a "loophole" in the state's criminal background check law. It allows gun sales to go through if a background check isn't completed by the end of the next business day.

Supporters say the bill closes what they call the "Charleston loophole." That refers to a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gunman killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

The FBI said the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, was cleared to purchase a gun when a criminal background check didn't reveal any problems after the first three days. But federal authorities said subsequent checks turned up a drug conviction that would have disqualified Roof from purchasing a gun. That information didn't surface until after the three day deadline, and Roof had already bought a handgun.

That twist was especially cruel to relative of the victims of the Charleston church shooting. One of those family members testified in Salem Thursday.

Sharon Risher, whose mother and two cousins were killed, said nothing could have prepared her for the shock of learning that her loved ones were murdered.

“That pain was compounded,” Risher said, “by the shock when I learned that because of a flaw in our background check systems, a dangerous man was able to buy a gun and shoot nine beautiful people with it.”

The measure under consideration in the Oregon legislature would ban gun sales without a completed background check, no matter how long that takes. Opponents of the measure say it would put law-abiding citizens at the mercy of the slow pace of government bureaucracy.

Sam McAllister, a licensed firearms dealer in Mapleton, Oregon, said the bill would violate the right to bear arms.

“The state is completely unaccountable,” McAllister said. “This bill effectively puts all background checks within the discretion of state agents, whom we are expected to trust.”

The Oregon State Police said in 2015 roughly 3 percent of criminal background checks were not completed by the one-day background check deadline.