Where Oregon gubernatorial candidates Christine Drazan, Betsy Johnson, Tina Kotek stand on gun rights

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Oregon voters on Nov. 8 will choose from among three candidates to be the state’s next governor: Republican Christine Drazan, unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson and Democrat Tina Kotek.

The Statesman Journal asked the candidates about their position on a variety of issues, from guns to abortion to forest management. We will run their answers, presented in their words, over the next several weeks.

(Answers may be edited for clarity and length. Information in italics was added by the Statesman Journal. The order of the responses will be rotated with each question).

What actions should the state take to address the issue of gun violence? Would you be supportive of any additional gun control measures?

Christine Drazan:

Oregon already has among the most stringent gun control laws in the nation on the books.

I will increase funding for law enforcement to put more police on the streets and support local interventions to prevent violence before it occurs. I will also expand on recent investments in mental health supports to provide better care to those who pose a threat to themselves or others.

(Drazan on her campaign website states that she “will veto any bill that Compromises Oregonians’ Second Amendment rights, including the right to defend themselves and their family.”)

(Drazan, who has said she is a gun owner, voted against a 2021 bill requiring gun owners to store their firearms in a safe or gun room, or use a trigger lock. The same bill also made it a misdemeanor for owners with a concealed handgun license to carry a gun in the capital or the Portland International Airport. Drazan also voted against a 2019 bill to prohibit certain individuals with court protective orders from possessing firearms.)

Betsy Johnson:

I am a lifelong responsible gun owner and collector.(Johnson in 2018 told a class of students that she legally owned a machine gun, according to The Daily Astorian. In a May TedxPortland interview posted on Twitter by KGW News reporter Evan Watson, she stated that “the style of the gun doesn’t dictate the lethality.)

As a state lawmaker for 20 years, I supported the rights of law-abiding gun owners and have defended the Second Amendment. (Johnson was the lone Democratic senator in 2015 to vote against a 2015 expansion of background checks for private gun sales, in 2017 to vote against a red flag law that allows judges to require someone to surrender their guns if they are a danger to themselves or others, and in 2021 to vote against the same firearm storage bill Drazan opposed.)

Like most responsible gun owners, I believe that, in a society of increasing deadly gun violence by criminals, the mentally ill, and disturbed kids, we must do more to keep guns away from people who should not have them.

As Oregon’s independent governor, I will lead with practical solutions. As a Second Amendment supporter, I have the credibility to find common ground on gun safety while far-left Tina Kotek will only drive people further apart.

I will support and enforce a stronger background check system, ensuring the integration of information across jurisdictions and appropriately integrating access to juvenile and school information.

I will also support raising the age to buy certain semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21. We can also do more in the areas of mental health care and school and community safety if rational people come together in a bipartisan manner to focus on solutions. As an independent governor, I will lead that effort. These are practical ideas that will improve public safety. It can be done.

Oregon’s mental health system ranks 50th in the nation. I will fix that. We need more dedicated, trained counselors in schools empowered to take action when there are warning signs of trouble with a student. I will support local school districts with funding to ensure safer school buildings. And under my leadership, we will support – not demonize or defund – local police, who are vital partners in keeping schools and neighborhoods safe. 

Tina Kotek:

Oregon has made progress in passing laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, but the recent increase in gun violence makes it clear that there is much more urgent work to be done.

I am the only gubernatorial candidate who has stood up to the gun lobby and championed gun violence prevention measures. As House Speaker, I expanded background checks for gun purchases, required guns be stored safely to prevent fatal incidents in the home, especially with children, and passed a red flag law that prevents individuals from accessing a gun if they are a danger to themselves or others. (Kotek, who has said she is not a gun owner, backed several gun restrictions while in the Legislature, including the 2015 expansion of background checks, 2017 red flag law and 2021 firearm storage requirements.)

I have also led an initiative to seek federal funds for evidence-based violence prevention programs that will reduce violent retaliation in our communities. As governor, I will work to increase the age to purchase assault rifles from 18 to 21 and collaborate with the Oregon Attorney General and state law enforcement to stop the ghost gun black market.

Meanwhile, both Christine Drazan and Betsy Johnson earned A ratings from the NRA. (Johnson received an A in 2014 and 2018; Drazan received an A in 2020.) They both voted to keep allowing convicted domestic abusers and stalkers to have guns and voted against requiring gun owners to safely store their weapons.

Alia Rau is the senior news editor at the Statesman Journal. Send comments, ideas and tips to her at ARau@salem.gannett.com

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