The short session kicked off with calls across the aisle for bipartisanship and collaboration for the next five weeks. Attempting, no doubt, to stymy any further Republican walkouts after the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the secretary of state’s decision to disqualify 10 Senate Republicans from running for re-election. Leadership in both the Senate and House encouraged party members to withhold politically controversial bills to keep any further walkouts from halting this short session. Considering that firearm-related bills, such as HB 2005, helped cause the 2023 walkouts, we expected a quiet session on our Second Amendment rights. However, that lull lasted approximately 2.5 days until we heard our first of three firearm-related bills on Wednesday during the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 1503 establishes a Task Force on Community Safety and Firearm Suicide Prevention. Co-Chief Sponsored by Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego), Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), and Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena), this task force would coordinate between Department of Justice, Oregon Health Authority, and federally recognized Indian tribes to study best practices for reducing deaths from community safety threats and for suicide prevention.

Marketed as a firearm/suicide prevention task force, Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) commented that the term “community safety” was too broad and dealt with far more than suicide prevention. This concern was affirmed when half of the testifiers in support of SB 1503 spoke about the effects of gun violence on young men of color or instances of mass shootings. Despite sponsors reaffirming that SB 1503 was a suicide prevention task force, the ambiguous wording and terminology led many members of the public to think otherwise.

Despite the ambiguous language, another concern brought forth by Second Amendment advocates was the lack of firearm industry representation on the task force. Whitley Sullivan, who represents the National Shooting Sports Foundation, argued that without a firearm consumer advocate on the task force, the goals of preventing firearm related suicide would be unsuccessful.