As of Friday, April 6, 2018
I want to commend students for exercising their First Amendment rights by voicing their outrage over gun violence in schools and importance of school safety. I want them to know I am listening.
I have heard and read comments that House Bill 4145 is a school gun violence bill. I want to be sure students and the greater community understand HB 4145 doesn’t address school safety concerns.
I’m a devoted father to two young children who dedicated over 25 years of my life to serving in local law enforcement agencies, one of the many leadership roles I held was as a school resource sergeant. I firmly believe public safety, especially in our schools, starts with prevention. Prevention requires funding and other resources, such as training.
In over 25 years of service, some of the most dangerous calls I responded to were with active shooters in homes, schools, and other community settings. One such call was also a domestic violence situation, a woman had been shot multiple times by her spouse, our team got the woman to safety while searching the home for her armed husband. Another that many in our community remember was the shooting at Reynolds High in 2014; I responded to the call at the school to help evacuate students and staff to safety. Such violence demands a community, local law enforcement, and policymaker response.
School gun violence and domestic violence are very real concerns for our community, as is suicide which the Oregon Violent Death Reporting System reports is 82 percent of gun deaths in Oregon. As we consider how to reduce gun violence in our communities, we must look to root causes, implementing policies and appropriating funding accordingly.
When legislators vote for bills telling the public it will improve safety, the funding and other resources to help ensure that’s the case must be provided.
House Bill 4145 doesn’t meet those criteria. This legislation doesn’t provide funding to counties for additional officers and training or provide needed resources to prevent offenders from having their sentences shortened due to overcrowding or forced release. Without funding and other resources, criminals will be back on the streets. Our community deserves better than a false sense of security, so I voted no.
Instead, my goal as our state representative is to identify effective programs and provide funding to reduce gun violence in ways law enforcement can realistically implement, particularly as it relates to school gun violence prevention. I’ll work with law enforcement, community leaders, and others on practical solutions, and work across the aisle to find funding to implement strategies that keep our kids, and our communities, safe.
Rep. Jeff Helfrich, a retired law enforcement sergeant and military veteran, represents Oregon’s House District 52. To contact Helfrich, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his Salem office at 503-986-1452.