Police Agencies To Investigate Gun Sale Denials

Photo: KATU

Communities within Multnomah County continue to see increased levels of gun violence, including contract cities where the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) provides law enforcement services to East County. The tragic intersection of domestic violence and gun possession has led to too many victims in Multnomah County. The effects of gun violence are devastating to not only these victims, but their families and our community as well.

Sheriff Mike Reese noted, "One of my top priorities is reducing gun violence in our community. Elected officials and community members have called for more resources to end gun violence, and I am committed to finding new and innovative ways to keep guns out of the hands of those who might use them to harm themselves or others."

MCSO is focused on finding solutions to removing illegally-owned firearms from our community. Through effective prevention, education, and interdiction efforts we are working to keep Multnomah County safe from gun violence.

State law requires background checks be conducted for every firearm purchase. Of the over 300,000 transactions processed annually in Oregon, less than 1% are denied due to a person's background.

In Multnomah County there are over 20,000 firearms transactions annually, with approximately 200 that are denied. Yet, there is work to be done to manage purchasing attempts from prohibited persons, namely convicted felons, court-ordered domestic abusers and persons adjudicated mentally ill.

The Oregon State Police (OSP) Firearms Instant Check System (FICS) Program holds the sole authority to determine if a firearm can be lawfully transferred between parties. Given limited resources and the many public safety demands on our State Police, it is up to peace officers in jurisdictions across the state to determine if a crime has been committed after a firearms transfer denial, to take appropriate criminal enforcement action, and submit a case to the respective District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

"The Oregon State Police is pleased to strengthen our public safety commitment within Multnomah County, specifically relating to the law enforcement response on firearm transaction denials. While the percentage of purchase denials are relatively small, the public has an expectation law enforcement will supply quick and efficient investigations of prohibited persons attempting to obtain firearms. This cooperative investigative response will shorten response times by officers, increasing accountability for offenders and mitigating disruptions for lawful firearm dealers." Said, Travis Hampton, Oregon State Police Superintendent.

MCSO considers transfer denials a shared responsibility and an opportunity for better intergovernmental coordination, to leverage resources and keep our communities safe from violent crime. We have seen over 10 local jurisdictions successfully apprehend illegal gun owners through call response and trace investigation of firearms. It is time for our major metropolitan area to follow suit and close the gap between what the law directs public safety to do and our practice.

Over the course of this summer, MCSO, together with the Portland Police Bureau and the Gresham Police Department, trained with OSP to conduct appropriate denial investigations. In September, OSP will dispatch firearm transfer denials through the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) to our local law enforcement members.

In turn, our collective members will work with FICS to vet information and complete criminal investigations. MCSO would like to recognize OSP, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, and our law enforcement partners at both Portland and Gresham Police for this leadership effort - coordinated training and practice supports Oregon's system of accountability and furthers our shared public safety mission.

Source: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

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