While a slight majority of Oregon voters elected to approve Measure 114 – which would require permits to buy all firearms and ban high capacity magazines – the legislation was overwhelmingly unpopular in most rural counties.
Voters in 29 of Oregon’s 36 counties voted against it. In Josephine County, 114 was opposed by 29,567 voters, constituting nearly 70% of the electorate.
Naturally, with a hot button issue that commands as much passion as gun control, rumors and conspiracy theories about what the measure would and would not restrict if it prevails against legal challenges are bound to swirl.
So, let’s take a step back and look at what Measure 114 is, who opposes it and what their basis for questioning its constitutionality is.
First of all, it’s worth noting that Oregon would not be the first state to pass gun control legislation of this nature if the courts enable it to take effect.
According to Ballotpedia.org, “As of 2022, fourteen states and Washington, D.C. have enacted permit-to-purchase laws that vary by type of license and firearm purchased. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws banning magazines capable of holding a certain number of rounds.”
California, Connecticut, New York and Maryland are among the states that have a 10-round limit on magazine capacity.
The certified ballot title for Measure 114 – the Changes to Firearm Ownership and Purchase Requirements Initiative – was as follows: Requires permit to acquire firearms; police maintain permit/firearm database; criminally prohibits certain ammunition magazines.
Under the measure, individuals must have a permit issued by local law enforcement to obtain firearms from a gun dealer, private individual or at a gun show.
To get a permit, citizens would have to complete an approved safety course including review of relevant laws, safe firearm storage, firearm abuse/misuse prevention, and demonstration of basic firearms handling and firing. The instructor of this course must be certified by a law enforcement agency.
An initial fee of no more than $65 would have to be paid by applicants to cover fingerprints and a background check. The cost to renew after the permit’s five-year lifespan expires would be $50.
A permit may be denied if the applicant poses danger to themself or others. The measure establishes an appeals process for denied, revoked or non-renewed permits.
An electronically searchable statewide database of all permits prescribed would also be maintained by state police.
Notably, having a firearm without a permit would not be a crime in and of itself. It is the sale or transfer of a firearm to a person without a permit that would be a Class A misdemeanor; repeat violations may be felonies.
Besides the permitting requirement, the other major part of Measure 114 is a limit on magazine capacity, with some exceptions.
Willamette University constitutional law professor Norman Williams was interviewed recently by Portland TV station KGW, wherein he said limits on magazine capacity are likely to be struck down given recent Supreme Court precedent, saying in part, “I think it’s going to be very difficult for Oregon, California, Washington and other states to be able to survive a Second Amendment challenge to a ban on high-capacity magazines.”
If an injunction is not placed on 114, the manufacture, sale, use or possession of large-capacity magazines will be a Class A misdemeanor 180 days after passage.
There will be an exception for law enforcement and armed services personnel inperformance of their duties, and those who own or later inherit large-capacity magazines when used on owner’s property, at shooting ranges/competitions, while hunting consistent with applicable regulations, and during transport to permissible locations (if secured separately from firearm) have affirmative defense.
On Friday, Nov. 18, the Oregon Firearms Foundation, Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey and Adam Johnson, owner of Coat of Arms Firearms, filed a federal lawsuit against the Oregon governor and attorney general, claiming Measure 114 is a violation of the Second Amendment.
“Its draconian terms turn the Second Amendment on its head by stating that, instead of adults presumptively having a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, they do not have that right unless they can affirmatively prove to the government that they are ‘good enough’ to have a gun,” Attorney John Kaempf wrote in the motion.
The following Wednesday, Nov. 23, this group filed an emergency motion to stop enforcement of Measure 114 before it goes into effect Thursday, Dec. 8. According to the Associated Press, “U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut on Thursday scheduled a hearing on the motion for Dec. 2.” The state’s deadline to file a response to the emergency motion for preliminary injunction is today.
In addition to being opposed by gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association, Oregon Firearms PAC, and Oregon Hunters Association, Measure 114 is also opposed by the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and many sheriffs of rural counties.
Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan, Jefferson County Sheriff Jason Pollock, Wallowa County Sheriff Joel Fish and Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen have all declared they will not enforce magazine capacity limits, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
A common criticism among sheriffs is that the measure will put a financial strain on police departments which will see an increased workload with issuing permits, and no state funds being designated to cover the process.
Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill said in a statement, “One of the major impacts it will have is the overall cost. The measure only accounts for a $65 charge for the process, but the major issue the sheriff’s office will be impacted by is having to hire at least one additional employee to handle this new process. You might ask, ‘Why is hiring another person a big deal?’ Under the current budget we now have there is no money to do this and if this passes; the sheriff’s office will be considering a reduction in patrol staff to meet the mandate!”
Proponents of Measure 114 argue that the ban on large-capacity magazines will help reduce mass shootings and save lives as shooters would have to pause to reload before firing dozens of shots.
Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation, claimed that homicide in Connecticut was reduced by 28% after the state enacted its permit-to-purchase law, and suicide was cut by 33%.
According to KGW, “Professor Williams said he believes the court will likely put an injunction on Measure 114, pausing it from taking effect, at least until the permitting and training process can be put into place.”