Oregon voters passed a ballot measure that will tighten the state’s gun control laws despite deep opposition to it in rural areas.
Measure 114 will end a loophole in federal law that allows firearm dealers to sell guns without a background check if it’s not completed within three business days. It also will require anyone who buys a gun in Oregon to pass firearm safety training and ban the sale of bullet magazines that hold over 10 rounds.
Voters narrowly passed it, with nearly 50.7% in favor and 49.3% opposed. Opposition to it was strong in rural Oregon, where it met stiff resistance, including from several county sheriffs who have said they will not enforce the measure. But Portland-area voters in Multnomah and Washington counties gave the measure enough support to overcome the opposition.
With the election over, work towards implementation is unfolding. Supporters plan to work with the Oregon State Police, which is charged with writing the administrative rules to put the measure in place. Opponents are likely to sue to overturn the measure – a move that may temporarily or permanently halt the work of putting the measure’s requirements into place.
Mark Knutson, chair of Lift Every Voice Oregon, a group that got the proposal on the ballot and plans to work toward its enactment, said the group is contacting lawmakers and every sheriff. Regardless of what people thought of the measure before it passed, collaboration and an equitable, fair rollout are crucial, he stressed.
“The key is, for us, this is not a victory of one group over another,” Knutson said. “This is a victory for our children and youth in Oregon and public safety for all of us.”
There’s a 30-day period to implement the measure after ballot certification on Dec. 15, which means the regulations could start in mid-January, Knutson said. A spokesperson for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office was unable to confirm that timeline, however.
At this point, it’s unclear how quickly the state police will do that work. Mindy McCartt, a spokesperson for the state police agency, said the agency will follow the established state practices, which involve working with legal counsel and allowing the public to comment on proposed rules.
But she said the measure’s language make estimating a timeline for implementation difficult. For example, the measure does not say who will teach the mandated courses. That could be a local police agency, community college or other entity, Knutson said.
Oregon State Police are working with attorneys to determine whether the information in the database of permits and will be exempt from public records laws, McCartt said.
The training requirements are not retroactive, and people who own or inherit large-capacity magazines can use them on their property, at shooting ranges or while hunting.
New system required
Opponents of the measure predict that it will not be simple – or quick – to implement.
Kerry Spurgin, president of the Oregon State Shooting Association, said state police and law enforcement will have to come up with a “permit system that doesn’t exist today” and figure out how to deal with the training requirement for live-fire demonstrations because the state doesn’t own the shooting ranges.
Spurgin said the trainers aren’t even identified yet.
“There are no certified trainers for this because they don’t even know what the curriculum is for the training, so none of this is in place,” he said.
He expects gun sales to halt until a permit system is in place.
“This bill as it stands is not workable in the permit process,” he said. “The training programs don’t exist, the trainers don’t exist, the location for the training and the locations for the live fire demonstration do not exist. Therefore, the permits cannot be issued.”
Amy Patrick, policy director of the 10,000-member Oregon Hunters Association, echoed those concerns.
“There’s just a large mountain of things that are going to have to be put in place,” Patrick said, adding that they cannot happen within the 30-day window.
It’s possible that the implementation timeline could change, whether through the rulemaking process or a lawsuit.
Neither group ruled out a lawsuit, which could be filed in a bid to halt the measure. For a high-profile law such as this one, plaintiffs typically would ask implementation to be put on hold to hear the merits of the case, said Aliza Kaplan, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School.
“You don’t know for sure, but usually when a lawsuit is brought, the law gets put on hold,” Kaplan said.
She stressed that that decision would be up to the judge, who doesn’t have to grant a preliminary injunction, or temporarily halt the law, while the case moves forward.
Lawmakers await answers
It’s possible that the measure would need legislation in the 2023 session.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene and chair of the Interim Senate Committee on Judiciary and Ballot Measure 110 Implementation, said lawmakers are waiting for guidance from legislative counsel as to what they need to do.
“I expect as things evolve, in the next couple of weeks we will have a better sense from legislative counsel as to what we will need to be considering and looking at based on the measure,” Prozanski said in an interview.
He said he didn’t want to speculate on what may be needed while awaiting information.
But, he noted, it’s not unusual for the Legislature to pass a bill or take action to implement a voter-approved measure, as it did with Measure 110, which legalized low-level possession of hard drugs.
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Ben Botkin - Oregon Capital Chronicle
Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.