Curry County Sheriff John Ward doesn't plan to make it a priority to ensure that even private individuals obtain criminal background checks when they sell a firearm to another person.

Senate Bill 941, approved at the legislature Monday, would require that; the legislation awaits the governor's signature to become law.

"Right now, with resources as low as they are, and the priority list we try to respond to, that will not be in my sights," Ward said. "It's not that I won't investigate it, it'll just be a low priority."

Oregon requires background checks on sales by licensed dealers and at gun shows to ensure felons cannot obtain a firearm. Under SB 941, Oregon would be the 12th state to require these checks on sales and transfers among private parties for both handguns and long guns.

It passed 32-28 in the House, with all but three Democrats voting for it and all Republicans and three Democrats casting votes against it. Rep. Wayne Krieger voted against it, as did Sen. Jeff Kruse.

The Curry County Democrats, in a resolution in their policy position, say "every single gun owner should go through a proper background check to determine whether they have a criminal history or a diagnosed mental illness," said member Linda Bozack.

"Obama wants Congress to close the gun show loophole that allows people at gun shows - and private buyers of used weapons - to avoid getting checked," the resolution reads. "He will also, through executive action, urge private sellers to conduct background checks, even if they aren't mandatory."

Part of the intent of the bill is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who might not otherwise use them.

"While all states are required to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, some states are sluggish about putting the data into the system," the resolution reads. "Obama will put more money into the hands of the states so that they can improve their reporting systems, and issue stronger guidelines to let states know when they should report people."

The new legislation also declares this as an emergency, effective upon passage. It also specifies exceptions for family members, law enforcement, inherited firearms and certain temporary transfers, and punishes violators with one year's imprisonment, a $6,250 fine, or both, to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

"It would have been better if they'd kept in (language about the) passing of weapons between related people, but I think background checks work," said Curry County Democrat Chair Carl Page. "They would work better if the database had more information on it, but the NRA and its allies managed to keep relevant data out of the base."

Ward says the legislation infringes on citizens' Second Amendment rights.

"Senate Bill 941 won't keep guns out of criminals' hands," he said. "It will only affect those who obey and live within the law. In my opinion, the government does not need to know who owns guns and how many guns they own."

His thoughts echoed those of the standing-room only crowd in a county commissioners meeting earlier this year, where dozens of citizens urged the board to pass a resolution in support of the Second Amendment.

Commissioners argued most of that morning, with commissioners Susan Brown and Tom Huxley saying they were opposed to the proposal because there was no pending legislation that such a resolution would address. In the end, they grudgingly joined Commissioner David Brock Smith in approval to send a resolution to Salem legislators.

"As sheriff of Curry County, I support keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, and we have current laws to enforce this," Ward said. "We do not need a poorly written law that would be difficult to enforce and cause undue hardships and problems to our law-abiding citizens who historically wish to acquire a gun legally through private sales."

Page said he thinks the law will likely work best at private gun shows where many criminals obtain weapons.

"The argument that (background checks) aren't perfect is a fallacious argument," Page said. "The first time a good person with a gun does something bad, he becomes a bad person with a gun."

Ward said he feels the law is a "bad piece of legislation.

"We need to take a stance and express what is right for all citizens regarding the bad laws that are being imposed upon us from those who are out of touch with 'We the People' and who try to govern us from afar," he said. "I'd imagine all the law enforcement across the state will make a determination about how they're going to go about enforcing this. I still don't agree with the decision."

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