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An Unwanted Side Dish

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Holiday parties are upon us and many people are inviting family members, old friends, and new faces to come into their homes. You might be, too. 

Some of your guests might want to bring their firearms with them. As the host, you have the right to tell people that guns are not permitted in your home.

Sadly, the holidays are not free from gun violence. Last Thanksgiving Day in the United States, 88 people were injured by gunfire and 45 people were killed by gunfire, including 4 children under the age of 11. That’s just in one day. Those numbers do not include suicide by firearm.

Homeowners and renters have control over their premises. Firearms can be prohibited in private homes and locations. A short sentence in your invitation (“Firearms not permitted”) will let your guests — including “plus ones”– know that firearms are not welcome. A sign on your door will remind people that guns are prohibited on the premises. Hosts can tell guests to leave the premises for any reason–including bringing a gun into the home. Failure to leave can result in a trespassing violation or other charges.

Remind your guests that cars are not gun safes, and that guns should be left at home. Legal gun owners unwittingly arm criminals when they fail to secure their firearms.

Why should hosts be concerned about people bringing guns, whether carried concealed or open? It’s a matter of safety, and being secure in one’s private space.

It’s also a matter of rights. 

A host has the right to know when a firearm is brought into the home.

Parents have the right to know when a person is carrying a firearm around their children. Parents know what is best for their children and the decision to place children in close quarters with a gun is the parents’ decision, not the gun owner’s decision. Under Oregon law, the gun owner could be held civilly liable if a minor accessed an unsecured gun (OR Rev Stat § 166.395 (2021)). Shockingly, the penalty for allowing a minor access to an unsecured firearm is only a Class A violation (not even a misdemeanor) with a minimum fine of $225.00 and a maximum fine of $2,000. The gun owner faces no criminal penalties and is allowed to continue to possess firearms.

Parties also present some common risks. Alcohol is served at many holiday gatherings; guns and alcohol never mix.

Some guests might carry a loaded, hidden firearm. Under Oregon law, carrying a concealed gun is only allowed if the gun owner has a valid concealed carry license (ORS 166.250). A guest who carries a concealed firearm into your private space should be responsible and respectful and tell the host that he is carrying a hidden firearm and provide his license for the host. Information about who has a concealed carry license is no longer available to the public so a homeowner or host has no way to know if a friend’s “plus one” is armed with a concealed gun (ORS 192.374).

There’s a liability issue, too. Most homeowners insurance policies exclude coverage for criminal acts and intentional injury. Check with your insurance company.

And despite tropes peddled by the gun industry, armed people are bringing risk to your table. Many people are new gun owners who are not required to be trained in gun use. An armed, untrained novice can be dangerous.

Hosts are well within their rights to not allow firearms on their premises and to ask the gun owner to leave. This holiday season, please celebrate safely, respectfully, and without arms at your table.