Rev. Mark Knutson of the Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland said he’s been working to pass stricter gun laws for 30 years. And his heart is breaking for the families in Uvalde, Texas.
“We’re going to toll the bell at the press conference tomorrow, for all who died,” he said, “We need those moments – we start to cry, and then say ‘no, we have to do something.’ Prayer is great, thoughts are great, but action. If you really love somebody you take action to save lives.”
Knutson and his team at Lift Every Voice Oregon, a small interfaith nonprofit, need a lot more people to take action if they want to get their proposed new gun laws on the ballot in Oregon this fall. They’d like to ask voters to approve Initiative Petition17, which would require a completed background check, firearm training and a permit obtained in advance to buy a gun in the state.
Requiring a permit to purchase a gun, currently the law in 10 states, reduces gun violence, according to the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“It’s associated with lower rates of firearm homicide, including mass shootings, lower rates of firearm suicide, lower rates of people shooting police officers, and lower rates of police officers shooting other people,” Cassandra Crifasi, an associate professor, said in a summary of a recent report by the center.
Measure IP17 would also ban the sale of high-capacity magazines that hold more than the standard number of bullets provided by gun designers.
“And we have a lot of gun owners who support this,” Knutson said. “They want responsible gun ownership. We have hunters who support it, they don’t want 10 rounds out in the forest. …We have veterans on board who have been to war and have seen what these things will do. And they’re horrified.”
The nearly all-volunteer effort to put these measures before Oregon voters has six weeks to collect and record at least 60,000 more signatures. Knutson estimates they need 200 to 300 volunteers and $500,000 in the bank to meet their goal.
It would take a groundswell of support to get this proposal on the ballot this fall. Knutson thinks that may be coming. Signature gatherers called in on Wednesday to tell him they’ve been greeted with hugs and signatures all day, he said. He prays that every Oregonian will consider signing the petition, gathering signatures, or donating to Lift Every Voice.
“We have to stand up now,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about public safety, especially for our children.”