In Short

Senate passes bill to rein in paramilitary activity

By: - June 24, 2023 4:17 pm

Firearms are on display in a Salem gun shop. (Connor Radnovich/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

The Senate on Saturday passed a bill that would clamp down on paramilitary activity and give law enforcement and private citizens tools to combat illegal intimidation, including through civil actions.

House Bill 2572 has the goal of preventing armed activity that interferes with law enforcement or infringes on a person’s constitutional rights, such as voting. The bill goes to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk after the Senate passed it with a 17-8 party line vote, with all eight Republican senators present opposed.

The bill’s passage comes amid a surge of domestic terrorist and paramilitary activity in Oregon and the Northwest in recent years. Armed anti-government militia groups have taken over public land, as they did in Harney County in 2016 at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Attackers have targeted the electric grid. In a 2022 report, the Oregon Secretary of State office found the state had the sixth highest number of violent extremism incidents in the nation from 2011 to 2020. The report urged lawmakers to take action because Oregon is one of just 16 states without a definition of domestic terrorism in the law.

“Our communities, our families are vulnerable,” Sen. James Manning, D-Eugene, a chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This bill will fortify Oregon against threats from violent extremists trying to undermine our democracy and infringe on our rights.”

The bill would allow the attorney general to take a paramilitary group to court and get a judicial order to stop certain activity, including armed intimidation. The bill would allow private individuals to sue paramilitary participants in court for damages over their loss of access to a public space or ability to engage in a lawful activity, such as voting. Lawsuits could be filed even if criminal charges weren’t filed.

Under the proposal, unlawful paramilitary activity would be defined as three or more people who operate as a unit with a coordinated command structure. The group, armed with firearms, explosives or other weapons, would be considered a paramilitary organization if it publicly patrolled, held drills or engaged in activities that could injure or kill. The bill would apply to paramilitary activity regardless of ideology.


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Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.