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Oregon governor signs gun bill that closes ‘boyfriend loophole’

SALEM, Oregon — Amidst a crowd of students and advocates rallying for stronger gun regulations, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed Monday the first piece of legislation addressing the issue since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.         

The law expands the prohibition of gun ownership to people convicted of domestic violence against non-married intimate partners — closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole."

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It also blocks people convicted of misdemeanor stalking from owning a gun. 

"Closing the 'intimate partner' is an important step to keep Oregonians safer from gun violence," Brown said. "I'm hopeful that the tide is turning on our nation's gun debate."         

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The legislation was one of Brown's top priorities coming into the short legislative session, which ended Saturday.

Before the signing event — which included speeches from Moms Demand Action representatives, legislators and a student activist — the governor held a 25-minute discussion with high school and college students about gun violence. 

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Moms Demand Action reached out to the governor's office, a spokesman said, to organize the exchange, and all 11 students supported stronger gun control measures.         

Much of the conversation revolved around the intersection of mental health care and accessibility to firearms.

The students said stigma around mental health issues still exists in some places. And in places where conversations about seeking help are more socially acceptable, often resources aren't readily available.         

"If you are just willing to try, and then you get told it's going to be a month, I think that that's discouraging to people," said Grace Bulger, a senior at the University of Oregon.         

In many high schools, counselors are also responsible for class scheduling, cutting into any time available for having conversations with students.         

Additionally, the students told Brown that communication from administrators can be lacking when it comes to mental health services. Grace Didway, a senior at Oregon City High School, said that those resources had not once been mentioned in her advisory class, which exists to share information with students.         

"Starting freshman year, day one, we need to make sure students are aware of the opportunities available to them in their school," she said. 

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Brown agreed this was a problem, ascribing blame to a lack of resources and trained professionals on staff. She encouraged the students to push administrations, especially at universities, to bring more counselors on campus.         

Underpinning the entire conversation were the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.          

There was support in the room for banning assault weapons, including the popular AR-15-style rifle that was used by the Parkland shooter, and bump stocks, which are used to achieve full-automatic fire rates with a semi-automatic weapon.          

But Brown cautioned that there was only so much Oregon could do on its own. Banning weapons or accessories wouldn't make much difference, she said, because they can easily be carried across state lines.         

She said the federal government needs to step in and should do so immediately.

"Now is the time for real change," she later reiterated to the gathered crowd before signing the bill. "Let's make it happen."

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