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Analysis of the 2020 Federal and State Elections

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Firearm death and injury is increasing but, to borrow a phrase from President-elect Joe Biden, we can marshal the forces of decency, compassion, and science to pass the laws and enact the policies that will end–yes, end–the nightmare of gun violence.

Ceasefire Oregon analyzed how the state and federal elections will impact the future of firearm injury prevention in Oregon and nationwide. We have a short version and a more detailed version below that.

The Biden-Harris administration with Democratic Senate and House majorities could pass some of the most significant firearm injury prevention legislation ever.

Analysis of How the Election Will Impact Firearm Injury Prevention, Short Version

Federal Level, Short Version:

The Biden-Harris administration without a Democratic majority in the Senate is limited in what can be done to stem firearm injury and death. President Biden could use his executive authority to rescind many of the dangerous Trump-era orders. However, passing strong, effective legislation through a Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely. In addition, the deeply conservative US Supreme Court will not likely support firearm injury prevention laws. The influence of money in politics will continue, therefore, to protect and elevate the interests of corporations, including gun manufacturers, while people in the United States will continue to suffer preventable firearm-related injuries and deaths.

The Biden-Harris administration with a Democratic majority in the Senate could expand the U.S. Supreme Court, enact firearm injury prevention laws, support new policies to reduce death and injury, and rescind dangerous Trump-era rules.

To be most effective, the Biden administration and a Democratically held House and Senate would need to enact laws that would end the influence of money in politics. 

State Level, Short Version:

With strong leadership and a clear voice from the people, Oregon could pass strong, effective firearm injury prevention legislation.

Democrats in Oregon will retain their majorities in the House and Senate but do not have a quorum to pass legislation in the Senate if the Republicans again run away. For the past two years, Republicans have denied the votes of Oregonians by shirking their duties. Governor Brown and the Senate President must find a way to allow the will of the people who voted for a majority of Democrats to be heard and enacted. 

House Democrats have a net loss of one seat. Republicans flipped two seats on the coast and Democrats flipped the House seat in Bend. The Democrats are poised to pass strong, effective legislation but they might opt for weaker measures. 

County Nullification of Firearm-Laws failed in Coos and Clatsop counties but passed in Columbia and Umatilla counties exposing the latter two counties to the possibility of a lawsuit. It’s time for these impotent measures to be rescinded.

Oregon Measure 110 passed statewide and was endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC. We endorsed Measure 110 to provide much needed recovery to people and to reduce the risk of suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings. 

Analysis of How the Election Will Impact Firearm Injury Prevention: Detailed Version

Federal Level, Detailed Version:

  • United States Supreme Court
    • President Biden might be in a position to appoint a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. We encourage him to choose a justice who would respond to the science-based evidence of firearm injury prevention.
    • Expanding the Supreme Court would help to balance the multitude of conservative judges appointed by Mitch McConnell during the Trump years and dilute the overbearing financial influence the gun lobby has placed on SCOTUS decisions.
  • National Firearm Injury Prevention Task Force
    • President Biden must appoint a Firearm Injury Prevention Task Force (FIPTF) and name a respected, experienced academic to lead. Ceasefire Oregon strongly recommends Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, to lead the Firearm Injury Prevention Task Force.
  • National Firearm Injury Prevention Bureau
    • We further urge President Biden to establish a Firearm Injury Prevention Bureau
    • The Bureau’s goals are to conduct objective, precise investigations and safety studies and advocate and promote safety recommendations.
    • Ceasefire Oregon called for the creation of such an organization in 2016 in response to Senator Ron Wyden’s request for ways to research gun violence.
  • Strong, Effective Legislation to Stop Firearm Injury and Death
    • If Democrats take control  of the U.S. Senate, Ceasefire Oregon expects the Biden administration to enact strong, effective laws to stop firearm injuries and death. 
    • We urge passage of the Denver Accord by federal and state governments.
    • We must enact laws for gun owner licensing (permit to purchase a gun with universal background checks); firearm safe storage laws; banning high capacity (10 or more bullets) magazines; placing military, assault-style firearms under the National Firearms Act; and creating a national standard for police reform. 
    • Yes, we must talk about ways to end firearm injury and death rather than accept the current staggering toll guns have taken.
  • Executive Actions With or Without A Senate Democratic Majority
    • The Biden administration would be able to rescind the Trump-era rule that changed oversight for the sale of firearms to foreign countries from the State Department to the economic priorities of the Commerce Department. 
    • We further expect that Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior would rescind rule changes enacted by the Trump administration that expanded hunting in national wildlife refuges.

Mark Kelly, Arizona:

Senator-elector Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, founded Giffords, the national firearm injury prevention organization, after Gabby was shot in the head in 2011. Senator-elect Kelly is expected to be a strong voice advocating for effective laws to prevent firearm injury and death. 

Ceasefire Oregon urges the Biden Administration to:

  • Create a Firearm Injury Prevention Task Force and name an academic researcher as Director
  • Create the Firearm Injury Prevention Bureau to promote firearm safety recommendations
  • Enact the legislation and policies in the Denver Accord (licensing, registration, police reform, community actions, ban high capacity magazines, require firearm storage, raise standards of gun ownership, and more
  • Enact the concepts found in HR 1236 to provide funds and guidance when creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) in the states and enact a law to allow people to petition in federal court for an ERPO
  • Expand the US Supreme Court to protect firearm laws
  • Rescind dangerous, Trump era rules on firearms
  • Enact a law to prohibit bump stocks

Oregon’s Congressional elections:

  • Both Rep. Bonamici and Rep. Blumenauer were endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC. 
    • Both are long-standing supporters of strong, effective laws to reduce firearm injuries and death in Oregon and nationwide.
  • Oregon Second Congressional District Rep. Kurt Schrader
    • Rep. Schrader voted in support of HR 8 (Universal Background Check) but has an unfortunate history of voting for bills that will make people less safe from gun violence including voting in support of concealed carry reciprocity, the SHARE Act (a gift to the gun lobby), and allowing possession of firearms in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuge Systems without regard to the safety of hikers and campers on that land.
    • While Rep. Schrader’s re-election will continue the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives, his support of strong laws to end firearm injury and death cannot be counted on. 
    • Please call Rep. Schrader now at 503-557-1324. Tell him you expect him to continue to support strong, effective legislation that will end firearm injuries and deaths.
  • Oregon Fourth Congressional District Rep. Peter DeFazio, endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC
    • Congressman DeFazio’s position on firearm injury prevention bills has improved over the last few years. We hope he will continue to be a strong voice for science and evidence-based bills. 
    •  We are relieved that Congressman DeFazio’s handily defeated his opponent, Alek Skarlatos, who has links to the Qanon conspiracy group and was endorsed by an extremist pro-shooting gun lobby that blames Jews for the Holocaust and Japanese-Americans for the WWII interment of Japanese-American citizens, including children. 

State Level, Detailed Version:

Oregon Attorney General:  Ellen Rosenblum, endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC

  • AG Rosenblum has stood toe-to-toe against the Trump administration on critically important issues including prohibiting guns that are untraceable and undetectable by metal detectors. An Oregon bill to ban these so-called ghost guns was killed in 2019 by Governor Kate Brown in a failed attempt to appease the walkout Republican minority. We urge AG Rosenblum to continue her work to ban ghost guns in Oregon.

Oregon Secretary of State: Shemia Fagan, endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC

  • Shemia Fagan cares deeply about the rights and dignity of all people. She will protect Oregon’s vote-by-mail system for all Oregon voters.
  • Kim Thatcher, like Alek Skarlatos, has close ties to a gun lobby that publicly blames Jews for the Holocaust and Japanese-Americans for the WWII internment of Japanese-American citizens, including children.

Oregon State Senate 

  • Democrats retained a majority but did not pick up the two seats needed to achieve a quorum. A quorum is necessary to pass legislation without the minority Republicans present. The Republicans could, yet again, flee the Capitol to stop votes on legislation opposed by their party leadership.
  • The Oregon Senate President must be willing to take votes on serious, meaningful legislation to address the epidemic of firearm injury and death in Oregon. (We are unsure at this time if Senator Peter Courtney will retain the Senate presidency.) 
  • With the support of the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and Governor Brown, Oregon could pass significant legislation to prevent firearm injury and death.

Oregon State House

  • The Oregon House Democrats have a net loss of one seat. Two previous Democratic seats on the coast were flipped to Republican seats. However, Democrat Jason Kropf, a strong supporter of firearm injury prevention legislation defeated Rep. Cheri Helt who has been a good ally for firearm injury prevention.
  • Newcomer Wlnsvey Camposis (D-Hillsboro) won House District 28 vacated by Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Hillsboro). During his time as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Barker had a history of voting against gun violence prevention legislation. In 2019, House Speaker Kotek removed Rep. Barker from his Chair position and Rep. Jennifer Williamson became the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Theoretically, the Democrats could pass strong, effective legislation but they might opt for weaker measures which put Oregonians at higher risk for firearm injury and death.
  • With strong leadership and clear vision, Oregon can marshal the forces of decency, compassion, and science to pass the laws and enact the polices that will end–yes, end–the nightmare of gun violence.

Oregon Measures:

  • Oregon Measure 110 passed statewide and was endorsed by Ceasefire Oregon Action Fund PAC.
    • Alcohol and drugs never mix with firearms. 
    • We support Measure 110 to provide help to people and reduce the risk of suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings. 
    • Individuals who drink any amount of alcohol are 4 to 6 times more likely to shoot themselves or to commit suicide with a gun than nondrinkers. (Epidemiologic Reviews 2016)
  • Firearm Law Nullification Measures in Coos, Columbia, Clatsop, and Umatilla counties
    • Coos County and Clatsop County both rejected a measure that would attempt to nullify laws related to firearms although Coos County passed a similar ordinance in 2015.
    • The illegal nullification measures were passed by Columbia County and Umatilla County.
    • Look for these measures to be challenged by lawsuits. The measures violate Oregon’s pre-emption law (ORS 166.170) and/or the US Constitution Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Section 2), which states county and state laws cannot supersede federal law.
    • Ceasefire Oregon calls on the counties with so-called “Second Amendment Protection/Sanctuary” measures to publish all laws their county officials or sheriffs have deemed unconstitutional and why.

What can you do? Get to know your legislators and talk to them about firearm injury prevention. Let them know you support strong, effective laws and policies that will end this preventable nightmare. Thank you.