This past month, officials say Ian Cranston gunned down Barry Washington, Jr. on the streets of Bend. Washington's death has caused many to call for all manner of retribution and justice, including upgrading Cranston's charges from second-degree manslaughter to murder charges. A grand jury made that determination last week, and Cranston does now face charges of murder in the second degree, along with several other charges.
But there's an overlooked manner of reform that's staring Oregon in the face, and had it been among the slew of reforms proposed by the Oregon legislature this past year, it may have saved this young man's life. On Sept. 25, a new law passed earlier this year went into effect, which allows local governments to ban those with concealed-carry firearms permits from bringing their guns into public buildings such as airports and schools. Some more conservative lawmakers called SB554, signed by the governor into law June 1, a "radical" idea that did nothing to make communities safer. In light of the recent shooting, which saw Cranston, a concealed-carry permit holder, bringing a gun into a bar and later using it to allegedly shoot Washington, we say the law was not "radical" enough.
- Courtesy PxHere
Oregon is among only a handful of states that does not address the matter of whether concealed-carry permit holders can mix alcohol or drugs and guns. Fifteen states, including Oregon, do not address this matter in state statutes. The other states, meanwhile, make some type of provision that bans people from consuming while carrying. Four jurisdictions—including Alaska, Arizona, California and the District of Columbia, ban concealed-carry permit holders from consuming at all while carrying. The remaining states prohibit concealed carry when a person is intoxicated or under the influence, or, they ban a person from BOTH consuming while carrying AND being intoxicated while carrying.
While officials here in Bend say alcohol was not a major factor in the death of Washington, they did not specifically state that Cranston had not been drinking that night. The Deschutes County District Attorney's office will not release the results of Cranston's blood alcohol level test at this point, so we can only speculate. But the fact that a vast majority of states make some type of provision to keep guns out of the hands of those who are consuming underlines how dangerous a combination drugs, alcohol and firearms can be.
In our own community, a young man lost his life over what officials say amounted to a couple unwanted advances by Washington toward the suspect's girlfriend. That should not have amounted to a death sentence. Had Oregon's laws been stricter around the topic of mixing guns and alcohol—as they are in dozens of other states—Barry Washington, Jr. may still be alive today.
Oregon made some strides this past year to more strictly regulate guns and where they can be concealed-carried. Private business owners have every right to ban them from their private premises if they so desire, and local governments now have that discretion in public buildings, too.
When people talk about gun reform, these are the types of reforms they are talking about.
When Cranston's trial is over and the public is able to better understand the details of what happened that night—including how alcohol did or did not play into the events—the next step may be to introduce in the legislature the Barry Washington, Junior memorial law, prohibiting those under the influence—or those consuming drugs or alcohol—from concealed-carrying. It won't bring Washington back, but it may bring a measure of justice so desired by friends, family and community members during this moment in Bend's history.