Why We're Winning: Success in Oregon and Beyond | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Why We're Winning: Success in Oregon and Beyond

Brian Malte

Whether by popular vote or through the legislative process, states are acting to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like felons, domestic abusers, and rapists by expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. It’s undeniable: we have achieved unprecedented momentum across the country to do what Congress has failed to.

Oregon is our latest success against the corporate gun lobby. Governor Kate Brown’s signing of legislation expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales makes Oregon the sixth state in the last two years to do so. Last fall, it was Washington State voters who overwhelmingly passed a citizen initiative. 2015 is Oregon’s turn. In 2016, it will once more be voters who finish the job that the Nevada legislature has thus far failed to.

And there may be other states that will choose to be a part of this national momentum—states full of Americans who are sick and tired of waiting for Congress to do its job.

For too long, people across the country have wondered why something as effective and popular as firearm background checks can’t pass. The simple answer is that up until a few years ago, ordinary citizens were not making their voices heard to their elected officials. Times have changed. Citizens around the country are taking matters into their own hands and not letting the corporate gun lobby dictate the public safety agenda.

In Oregon, Brady and its chapters partnered with national, state, and local organizations, including the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety, to create a citizen juggernaut that harnessed the pent-up desire for a safer state with less gun violence. Efforts actually started last fall when gun lobby incumbents who voted against the will of their constituents by voting against expanding Brady background checks went down in defeat. They paid the price for standing with an extreme minority who put the interests of the corporate gun lobby over the safety of citizens. On the same day last November, when Washington State voters overwhelmingly passed their citizen initiative to expand background checks, Oregon voters tossed out corporate gun lobby lap dogs with the help of the Brady Campaign and others.

There is a recipe we follow for success and many tools in our tool belt. Step one: toss out corporate gun lobby lap dog incumbents. Step two: use the legislative process to put on unrelenting pressure to pass expanded background checks. If the legislature fails to act, go to step three: use the citizen initiative process to do what elected officials aren’t and pass expanded background by popular vote. There are another 18 states that have citizen initiative processes available to use if we have to. We’ll take it to voters, state after state, if that’s what it takes until Congress acts.

Over the last two years, citizens in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Washington, and now Oregon have sent a loud and clear message to Congress—it’s time to finish the job the Jim and Sarah Brady started over 20 years ago and expand Brady background checks to all gun sales.

The momentum is real and undeniable. If you don’t still don’t believe it, just watch what Nevada does next year.