- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Despite staunch opposition from gun-rights activists, an Oregon Senate committee advanced a proposal Monday that requires background checks before any private gun sales that don’t involve close relatives.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure requiring gun buyers and sellers who aren’t related to appear in person before a licensed dealer who can run a background check through the Oregon State Police.

Proponents say the plan closes a loophole that wasn’t anticipated before the advent of Internet gun transactions and makes it harder for people with mental illnesses and violent criminal records to get guns.

Critics say background check requirements are difficult to enforce and disproportionally burden law-abiding citizens while trampling Second Amendment rights.

The bill passed 3-2, with a pair of Republicans voting “no.”

In opposition, Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Keizer Republican, introduced an amendment that would have removed the background check requirement and made it a misdemeanor to transfer a firearm to someone on a prohibited list, which includes felons, violent offenders, minors and the mentally ill. Her revisions weren’t included.

Roseburg Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse, meanwhile, said he may bring a substitute measure on the Senate floor, where the bill now heads.

The committee vote was a key early step for one of the most heavily debated issues of the session.

A hearing on the bill last week drew hours of testimony, including emotional support from relatives of victims killed in the Clackamas mall shooting and passionate opposition from law enforcement officials who said they wouldn’t enforce the bill if it passes.

Oregon law already goes further than federal law by requiring background checks at gun shows. This bill would make it the sixth state to pass a law requiring such background checks since the Connecticut elementary school shooting rampage.

Two previous attempts to expand background checks in Oregon have failed.

Democrats increased their Senate majority by two seats in last year’s election, however, and supporters think they have enough votes to pass the proposal into law this session.

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