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Oregon officials seek help keeping guns from abusers

PORTLAND – On the day that police investigated a murder-suicide involving a man and his girlfriend, federal prosecutors asked Oregon law enforcement officials for help keeping guns out of the hands of abusers in domestic violence cases.

A 48-year-old man shot his 21-year-old girlfriend Friday and then turned the gun on himself in a northeast Portland apartment, police said.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton told police, prosecutors and victim advocates that the two were “the latest victims of Oregon’s domestic violence. Guns and domestic violence are a dangerous mix that’s killing more and more.”

The meeting was intended to spotlight ways local officials can handle their cases so as to permit more federal prosecutions, according to the Oregonian newspaper.

It is a federal crime for people convicted in state court of certain domestic violence misdemeanors to possess a gun or ammunition, but federal prosecutors in Oregon don’t routinely file charges in those cases, the paper reported.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Weinhouse, who handles federal gun prosecutions, said the domestic violence gun cases that come before him are mostly referred by local law enforcement agencies, but it’s not done often enough.

“That’s the purpose of this conference,” he said. “To spread the word, and make law enforcement more aware of it.”

Holton signaled that he was willing to pursue a test case of an issue where Oregon and federal law don’t mesh, the newspaper reported.

Under federal law, a federal prosecution of someone with guns who faces a protective order can’t proceed unless a state court hearing was held or at least scheduled before the order was granted. But in Oregon and a few other states, temporary protective orders can turn into a full protective order without a hearing.