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April hasn’t been a kind month to Oregon State Senator Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro). The freshman Beaver State senator — whose campaign last year received $75,000 from Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety civilian disarmament organization — gained internet notoriety when video surfaced of him calling the Supreme Court’s pre-Civil War decisions upholding the constitutionality of slavery as “right for the time” while talking with constituents . . .

The conversation concerned gun control and the Senator’s support for Senate Bill 941. Riley supports the bill which would eliminate private transfers of firearms in the Beaver State by requiring background checks through an FFL for all firearms transactions. During the conversation, Riley said that the Supreme Court had held that background checks were Constitutional. (Note: to my knowledge the court has not actually held this, but the dicta in District of Columbia v. Heller — where Justice Scalia says that the decision shouldn’t cast doubt on “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” — leaves the door open pretty wider.)

The Senator’s interlocutor objected, stating that the Supreme Court’s decisions on slavery were morally wrong. Riley then said, “…they [the Court] were right for the time until they changed it [the Constitution].” This, of course, caused a stir at the coffee shop and a bit of a headache for the Senator when online media caught wind of the story.

“For the record, I am opposed to slavery,” the Senator (who also says he’s a gun owner) told me in a telephone conversation yesterday.

My answer was meant to be, the Supreme Court doesn’t judge morals, they judge constitutionality. Before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, it was constitutional. There’s still in the Constitution a section–Article 4 Section 2–about returning runaway slaves. It’s just overridden by the 13th Amendment.

The Supreme Court decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), however, did more than just confirm the (pre-13th Amendment) constitutionality of slavery. In the decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney called African-Americans “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect….” (Id. at 407.) He replied: “Obviously, they went farther than they should have gone. I think slavery was an abomination. But it was in our Constitution.” Mr. Riley reiterated that he simply making an argument about what was constitutional at the time, not what was morally right.

The Senator isn’t the only advocate of tighter gun restrictions to have made a gaffe concerning race in recent months. In February, billionaire plutocrat Michael Bloomberg proclaimed during comments at the Aspen Institute that since 95% percent of murders are committed by 15-25 year old male minorities, “[c]ities need to get guns out of this group’s hands,” implying a campaign to deprive minorities of their constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms. Despite the rather large contribution from Bloomberg’s Everytown group (which Mr. Riley confirmed,) the Senator appeared to be surprised about these comments.

I hadn’t heard that. That’s a crazy statement. I only want to get guns out of the hands of criminals, and to characterize any subgroup — any group at all — as being people who should be targeted is wrong . . . When Everytown came and contributed money I didn’t realize they were associated with him.

He further stated that he otherwise has “no relationship” with Bloomberg and that he’s never even met the former New York City mayor.

The Senator also talked a bit about the background check bill pending before the Oregon legislature. Was there any evidence that made him think it would actually reduce crime? He gets at least a half-point for honesty by admitting that he doesn’t know.

I think it will it will have an impact, how significant I’m not sure. No one knows when we pass a law. When we passed a seat-belt law a few years ago, we didn’t know for sure what impact it would have, but it’s made a huge difference.

Uncertainty about the long-term effects sounds more like an argument against passing a law, but maybe that’s just me. Currently, private transfers in Oregon are the only ones that don’t require an FFL to conduct a background check. New transfers at dealers and at gun shows have this requirement. These laws were enacted piecemeal over the years, perhaps showing the benefits to gun control advocates of playing the long game, being willing to accept half or a third of a loaf (I’m looking at you, Coloradans).

Mr. Riley has already earned the ire of gun rights activists in Oregon; he defeated incumbent Republican Bruce Starr by a narrow margin last year and after casting a decisive vote on Senate Bill 941, a Hillsboro man submitted paperwork for a recall election against him. Representative Susan McLain and House Majority Leader Val Hoyle are facing similar petitions. The otherwise talkative Senator was rather terse when asked about this.

Obviously it’s their right and part of the process. I accept whatever the voters decide.


DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

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  1. A law should be passed that requires all politicians to be honest. Wonder what the unintended consequences of that might be.

    • They’d disregard it just like all the other laws they ignore.

      Remember, criminals by definition don’t obey laws.

      • ^ Laws are not for government officials, only for the little people (especially in this era of hope and change).

    • If it were enforceable with adequate sanctions, I imagine the “unintended consequences” would be…silence.

      Let actions and record speak for themselves.

      • Re: link to petitions

        I’m not Gary, but I’ll say this: the petitions in question are probably of the dead-tree, hard-copy kind, which are only being circulated in the districts from which the officials being targeted by the recall efforts were elected in the first place.

        The elections boards are required by law to check each signature on the petitions in order to ensure that the collected signatures conform to the signatures on file for the respective registered voters. A certain number of valid signatures is required before the recalls can be placed on the ballots.

  2. Another one of those “gun owners” for gun control. I bet he’ll be happy to tell you some of his best friends are black, too.

    • Equivalent lunacy: As a vegetable owner, let me tell you how to farm and properly sustain the planet.

      • Unless it’s TEOTWAWKI, I’m not interested in eating produce fertilized with human sh!t.

        • Everything on this planet has been fertilized with human shit, and the shit of every other living creature, for at least 60,000 years. Before that, dinosaur shit for a hundred million years. Get over yourself.

          • Good post Larry but you forgot that for a billion years everything from humans to amoeba’s have shit and pissed and screwed in our drinking water.

  3. “I’m as anti-gun as they come, which is why I was glad to get confirmation of my anti-gun status from Everytown.

    “As a politician, I know that Bloomberg is toxic, but I didn’t know that he owned Everytown at the time”

    –Is that what you meant to say, Chuck?

  4. Obama:

    “The violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders. And they were constructive and they were thoughtful. And frankly it didn’t get that much attention. And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did things the right way, I think, have been lost in the discussion.”

    This quote is priceless.

      • “And one school shooting will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the millions of gun owners who did things the right way, I think, have been lost in the discussion.”

  5. The emotional furor is over him saying something that isn’t un-ambigously negative about slavery. Which is understandable, since slavery is among the worst violations of liberty possible. But for the left, I’m sure part of his throughtcrime is the suggestion that judges should rule according to the law rather than personal feelings. Which is doubly strange, since this whole context is pushing an unconstitutional gun control law. But then, leftists have never seen the need for consistency.

    • A rational analysis of slavery seems to be impossible, this guy may end up hung for his comments, but the fact is that slavery exists TODAY! In many places, including some of the places where slaves bound for America were purchased as a part of international trade, with the approval of the Kings of England and France, among others. America is among very few countries which have outlawed it, and little other than sexual slavery exists here today. And, of course, sexual slavery exists everywhere.

  6. Hey, at least he spoke to you. That’s way more than most of the antis do, I have to give him a tiny bit of respect for that.

  7. Weird how he gets that the Constitution is the law, regardless of how people feel about it when it came to slavery but doesn’t get that it is the law regardless of how people feel about it when it comes to firearms. Nowhere in the Constitution does it grant government the right to pass gun laws that affect law abiding citizens.

    • What about the “well regulated” part of our 2nd Amendment? If I sell one of my weapons it will only be to a valid CPL holder because I know someone has done due diligence- he or she isn’t a convicted felon or has a PPO placed on him.

      • Jeff, The “well regulated” part, as you call it, refers directly to the 2nd’s prefatory clause “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”. In the parlance of the day, that meant well equipped and trained. The phrase has nothing to do with governmental regulations as we know them today. This definition of regulated survives to this day in reference to firearm sights. Sights are “regulated” when point of aim corresponds to point of impact.

        Of course you want to do your due diligence before transferring a firearm. It’s the right thing to do. No responsible gun owner wants to provide a weapon to a prohibited individual. But, additional poorly conceived laws foisted upon law abiding citizens (who want only to exercise natural, civil, constitutionally protected rights) by legislatures bought and paid for by anti gun “activists” is not the way to go about it.

      • And your reference to a “CPL” is meaningless to most of the country, there is no such thing, because it is unconstitutional. You should be demanding access to the NICS system in order to properly vet purchasers of your firearms, but you will never get it, because it is expensive and useless, therefore the powers that are don’t want you to access it without parental supervision (paying the bill).

  8. Chucky had no idea he was taking money from a New York city billionaire. He has no idea if the legislation he voted for will affect criminal access to firearms. He does know he is going to have to face a recall election and he wants everbody to know he just loves and supports the 2nd ammendment.

    Why do the words “lying weasel” come to mind?

  9. He wants to distance himself from Bloomberg, as long as he doesn’t have to give the money back, right?

  10. He seems clueless. Probably just a marionette on string, ‘cept one of the strings slipped when he opened his mouth.

  11. Just another case of people judging the past by todays standards. I don’t agree with this guys stance on gun laws but his statement was factually correct.

    • IQ tests for politicians, next thing you know IQ tests for voters…

      Be wary the slippery slope…


      (Translation: Good luck passing it.)

  12. “to my knowledge the court has not actually held this, but the dicta in District of Columbia v. Heller — where Justice Scalia says that the decision shouldn’t cast doubt on “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” — leaves the door open pretty wider.”

    He specified “the commercial sale of arms” instead of just saying “the sale of arms”. To me that doesn’t seem to open the door for restrictions on private transfers at all, only that the current FFL and NICS system is ok.

    • That is because of ignorance. When the law is proposed to restrict private transfers (or anything else) it will have his vote.

  13. Heh, good one, JP.

    Kudos to the gun guys for engaging the politician.
    I dont know nor much care about his history recollections, nor am I at all interested in discussing slavery, etc-

    but its a good example of how political correctness gets in the way of reason, and the message,

    and that’s worth pointing out in this highly (polluted by PC and) polarized debate on 2A.

    “Embrace the fire” – Andrew Breitbart

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