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AK-47 tied to Bend shooting legal to own in Oregon


Saturday’s shooting of two men in northwest Bend shocked many, especially because such crimes remain rare in Central Oregon.

“I don’t remember the last time a stranger-on-stranger shooting happened like this,” Bend police Lt. Clint Burleigh said We4dnesday.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said although his office has enough evidence against the main suspect, Walker Henneke, the investigation is ongoing.

“We want to make sure that we know every possible thing about this case, to know if any other suspects should be charged,” Hummel said.

Three guns were seized in connection with Saturday’s shooting. Police said the suspect used an AK-47-style rifle to shoot two people during a street fight on Northwest Newport Avenue.

Burleigh said Wednesday the rifle is completely legal to own in Oregon. He said one suspect had a felony charge and was hence not allowed to own any guns.

According to gun experts, AK-47s are treated no differently under the law in Oregon than any other gun.

The AK-47 you can buy in a store is not a true AK-47, because it is not fully automatic.

“It’s an AK-47-style rifle,” said Eric Priller, the owner of Trigger Happy Guns in Bend. “But they’re not fully automatic so it’s all legal. Anyone can purchase one of these.”

It’s a different story with fully automatic guns. Those are still legal to obtain in Oregon, but only after the applicant passes strict FBI background checks. Priller said after the monthlong background check process, buying a fully automatic rifle can cost you upwards of $15,000.

Though police used the term, the AK-47 used in the shooting is not an assault rifle, according to experts.

“If it’s semi-automatic, it’s not an assault rifle,” said Oregon Firearms Federation Executive Direcrtor Kevin Starrett.

Starrett said while the term “assault rifle” is clearly defined, the term “assault weapon” is a lot more controversial.

“There’s no such thing as an assault weapon,” Starrett said. “That’s a completely manufactured term.”

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban defined them as “semi-automatic firearms with large magazines.”

The law expired under a sunset clause in 2004. Now several politicians are pushing for a renewal of the ban, and some states have passed their own versions.

In Deschutes County, Hummel said Saturday’s shooting is not like any other case he has dealt with in a while. His office is taking aim at gun violence in Central Oregon.

“We’re saying: No more. Not in this community,” Hummel said. “We’re going to stop it right here. We’re taking this seriously.”

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