Oregon lawmakers try to close ‘Charleston loophole’

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SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon lawmakers are considering closing a loophole in gun sales laws.

Currently, if a background check takes longer than three days, the buyer can get the gun, regardless of what might be found on that background check.

It’s called the Charleston loophole after last summer’s shooting at a South Carolina church. The shooter in that case was able to get a gun, despite an earlier drug conviction, because the background check took more than 72 hours.

Reverend Sharon Risher lost her mother and two cousins in that shooting. She flew across the country to testify in front of Oregon lawmakers.

“I was so angry that he was allowed to do this,” Risher tells KOIN 6 News. She says she was angry knowing the man who killed her family would have been denied a gun purchase if laws were different.

“If that loophole was closed, maybe I would have my mother and my cousins and my childhood friend.”

Representative Jennifer Williamson co-authored the bill. It says all gun buyers must have a background check completed without a time limit.

“What we know is that people who end up in that pending status, that three day status, are five times more likely to be denied, prohibited from buying a gun than the rest of the population that goes through a background check,” says Williamson.

Williamson says the majority of gun buyers pass a background check within 5-10 minutes. If a background check takes longer than that, it should raise a red flag.

“Hundreds of people fall through this loophole every year that should’t have guns.”

But not everyone agrees.

“Sometimes we call things we don’t like loopholes. I’ve heard that in this building a lot of times. Doesn’t mean there’s a loophole, it means it’s the way the law is intended to work,” says Representative Sherry Sprenger. “I also want us to be very cautious here in Oregon that we’re not building Oregon laws on South Carolina instances.”

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