There may be no more fitting sign of the controversial role gun control figures to play in the brand new Oregon legislative session than this: On the first day lawmakers met for hearings, the issue had already led to a complaint to the state police.
The office of state Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone, said Tuesday someone has been sending misleading emails that made it look as though Meek was excoriating his fellow Democrats for pushing new firearm regulations.
“The anti-gun bills introduced by Oregon Democrats are a disgrace,” read an email that Meek appeared to send to fellow lawmakers on Jan. 17 and which was subsequently circulated on Twitter. “Let’s stop attacking the rights of the law-abiding and work on real problems.”
Another email in Meek’s name, sent Tuesday, said in part: “Democrats have ended any pretense and made it clear that their goal is the complete elimination of gun ownership.”
In each case, the emails looked as though they were coming from Meek’s official email address. Staff with the Legislature’s Information Services department have since determined they weren’t.
“We confirmed the emails were sent from a non-legislative email account, and that Rep. Meek’s account has not been compromised,” said Shane Walker, the department’s deputy chief information officer. “It appears someone set up a non-Legislative email account attempting to make it look like the emails were sent from Rep. Meek’s office. This is known as spoofing.”
The Information Services department believes the emails originated using Votility, a platform that helps to organize advocacy campaigns. Walker said the matter had been referred to Oregon State Police. Oregon law makes it a crime to impersonate a public servant.
Meek’s office said Tuesday it wasn’t sure why he was the target of the misinformation campaign, which it first heard of from a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove. Meek sent an email to state Senate and House offices to explain.
“You may have received emails from me regarding gun safety legislation,” he said in the email. “I’m writing to inform you that these messages were not sent by me or my office and seem to have originated from another source.”
With Democrats in firm control of the House, Senate and governor’s office, new gun control legislation has momentum this year. Leading lawmakers say they’d like to mandate that guns be locked when not in use, raise the purchasing age for firearms to 21 and close a loophole in the background check system.
The bill getting the most heat from Republicans and gun rights advocates would require a permit to purchase a gun, limit the amount of ammunition that could be purchased each month, prohibit magazines that fit more than five rounds, and more.
That legislation, Senate Bill 501, was filed by two Democratic lawmakers at the request of a student group formed in the wake of a February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Given other priorities in this year’s session, it’s unclear the stiff regulations in SB 501 stand much of a chance. But asked about the proposal recently, Gov. Kate Brown didn’t rule out the proposed restrictions.
“I’d have to look at them, honestly,” Brown said. “When we do common sense firearm safety, we want to make sure that it impacts both rural and urban Oregon in a way that makes sense.”