Dueling Court Rulings Create Confusion on Measure’s Future
UPDATE: After a federal judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order to sidetrack Measure 114, a Harney County District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order. The Oregon Supreme Court declined to lift the temporary restraining order, which means the voter-approved gun safety initiative won’t go into effect today. US District Court Judge Karin J. Immergut ruled the permit-to-purchase and large magazine ban contained in Measure 114 posed minimal impact on Second Amendment rights. Harney County Circuit Court Judge Robert Raschio disagreed and ordered the temporary restraining order citing potential conflict with the Second Amendment. The Oregon Supreme Court sided with Judge Raschio’ ruling, but said it would entertain a future motion to lift the restraining order. Some delay would have occurred regardless after Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum asked Judge Immergut to delay the Measure 114’s permit requirement for 30 days to give the Oregon State Police more time to implement the requirement.
Narrow voter approval of Measure 114, which imposes requirements to purchase firearms in Oregon, was destined to spark controversy. Now it also has become topical in the aftermath of a series of mass shootings throughout the nation.
The Oregon Firearms Federation, joined by the Sherman County sheriff and a Keizer gun store owner, are asking a federal judge for a temporary restraining order to prevent Measure 114 from going into effect December 8. The plaintiffs previously filed a lawsuit claiming the initiative is unconstitutional because it violates 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,” the plaintiffs argue.
Lift Every Voice Oregon, the interfaith group that surprised many observers by collecting enough signatures to place Measure 114 on the general election ballot, says the permit-to-purchase measure is intended to slow down gun sales, preventing impulsive suicides and mass shootings. The measure also bans large-capacity magazines that are used in mass shootings. Measure 114 provisions apply to gun transfers at gun shows.
Opposition by gun owners was expected. What was less predictable was the recent spate of mass shootings – three in the last week, 13 since October 3 and 35 during 2022, a dubious national record. The shootings have renewed debates over gun regulation and the need for troubled young men interventions.
Measure 114 is viewed as one of the toughest gun laws in the nation, which makes it a surefire target for litigation and likely to wend its way to the US Supreme Court. In their court filing, the Oregon plaintiffs renamed Measure 114 as the “Gun Magazine Confiscation and Gun Registry Act”. The Oregon Attorney General will defend the measure but hasn’t responded yet to the plaintiff filing.
Measure 114 provisions parallel restrictions in other states that courts have found constitutional. Opponents are challenging it anyway.
Oregon State Police haven’t spelled out details of implementing Measure 114, which requires purchasers to show proof they have undergone gun safety training offered by a certified firearms instructor to learn how to lock, load, unload, fire and store a firearm safely. Gun purchasers also must purchase a permit, valid for five years.
Measure 114 gives gun dealers 180 days after December 8 to sell their inventories of large-capacity magazines to out-of-state dealers or physically destroy them. Gun owners who possess large-capacity magazines may keep them in private homes or storage units and use them for shooting competitions and recreational hunting. State police officials encourage gun owners with large-capacity magazines to photograph time stamps on their purchase date.
Plaintiffs challenging Measure 114 implementation insist large-capacity magazine restrictions will hinder self-defense of law-abiding gun owners and won’t stop mass shootings. They note magazines with more than 10 rounds have existed since the American Revolution and have been common since 1862.
Small gun dealers have asserted Measure 114 will drive them out of business because they don’t have the capacity to run background checks on prospective gun buyers. They also anticipate up to a six-month delay in final rules to implement Measure 114. “Most local businesses don’t have the available free cash to float their operations for that long,” says John Humpton, owner of Black Flag Armory in Medford.
Since the November 8 election when voters approved Measure 114, gun sales have spiked in Oregon, as evidenced by lines streaming out of gun shops. Humpton estimated his gun sales have quadrupled. There is a backlog in the Oregon Firearms Instant Check System, which had 24,274 pending background checks as of November 17.
The other practical impediment to Measure 114 implementation is law-enforcement-approved live-fire training. Experts say the safety training required by the measure parallels existing requirements to obtain an Oregon concealed handgun license. Some gun dealers already offer safety classes, but more physical spaces will be needed to keep up with gun-purchasing demand. Local law enforcement authorities say the $65 fee included in Measure 114 won’t cover expected expenses to carry out its provisions.
Oregon has joined 14 other states and Washington, DC to impose a permit-to-purchase gun law. Several of the restrictions have been legally challenged and have been found constitutional. Multiple courts have upheld the constitutionality of similar large-capacity magazine bans.