New Oregon Gun Law Faces Many Questions, SCOTUS Declines Hearing Third Bump Stock Challenge
Backers of Oregon’s gun control Measure 114 — designed to impose the state’s first-ever permit requirement to buy a firearm — declared a major, albeit narrow victory at the ballot box last week, as voters approved the initiative 51-49 percent.
But, now there’s a great amount of uncertainty about the nature of the regulations, and, no doubt, fights over its basic legality that could delay adoption of the new set of rules well into next year, if not farther.
In the meantime, state police, lawmakers and supporters of the measure need to write up a unified collection of guidelines and then figure out how to implement the restrictions.
One Oregon sheriff has already announced he’s not going to enforce the ban on large-capacity magazines, while gun rights advocates are gearing up to block the measure, arguing it violates their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Voters in seven counties considered some of Oregon’s Democrat strongholds — including Multnomah, Washington, Lane and Benton counties — passed the measure with strong support as 29 of the state’s largely rural, conservative counties rejected it.
Passage of Measure 114 largely credited to the efforts of Lift Every Voice Oregon, a association of interfaith and community-based activists launched soon after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff dead.
“We’re very humbled by this, but it wasn’t a victory over anybody. It was a victory for our children that we can all celebrate,” said one of the chief petitioners, the Rev. Mark Knutson from Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, told Oregon Live.
Lawyers advising the Oregon Firearms Federation, the Second Amendment Foundation and other gun rights advocates disagree that passage of the initiative was a victory for anybody.
The opposing legal team plans to go to court and ask for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the measure from taking effect until a judge can consider whether the new regulations meet constitutional muster.
State police already conduct a required criminal background check when someone seeks to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer — and will deny a sale if someone is under 18, has a felony conviction or an arrest warrant for a felony.
Oregon law enforcement will also reject gun buyers if they have been found guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal case, found incompetent to stand trial or have been committed to a mental health institution.
Measure 114 requires a stricter background check, with a longer waiting period, before someone can obtain a gun permit.
Under the new rules, state police can deny permits to applicants if they are “reasonably likely to be a danger” to themselves or others because of their mental or psychological state or have a “past pattern of behavior” involving violence or threats of violence.
A permit is good for five years. Gun owners must undergo the permit background check each time they renew their permit.
Then, each time an individual buys a new gun after getting a permit, they must undergo a standard firearms criminal background check.
Measure 114’s requirement that a background check be completed before a gun is sold or transferred differs from federal law, which allows a gun sale to occur if a background check isn’t completed within three business days.
As the measure is written, the requirement would go into effect Jan. 15. That’s when many gun rights advocates suspect the state will halt gun sales because no one will have a permit to buy one.
Proponents of the measure say that’s not true.
“Sales will not halt because permits cannot be required until (Oregon State Police) develops the rules and finalizes the standardized form to apply,’’ Anthony Johnson, a spokesman for the Measure 114 campaign, said in the Oregon Live report.
“They may believe that, but there’s no place in Measure 114 that says that ‘until state police create rules, that sales can continue,’ ” said Salem-based attorney Leonard Williamson, who has been a licensed firearms dealer for 20 years and remains skeptical. “I’m not going to take a chance and violate the law because I don’t want ATF or state police at my door.”
The passage of Measure 114 comes as the United States Supreme Court has declined to hear another challenge to the federal ban on bump stocks, which enable semi-automatic guns to fire like fully automatic weapons.
The Trump administration put the ban in place after a 2017 mass shooting during a country music concert in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds of others wounded.
The gunman in that shooting used several rifles fitted with bump stock devices and was able fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes toward a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers.
Bump stocks attach to the back end of a rifle and harness the recoil of the gun to allow it to fire in rapid succession.
The case that the Supreme Court declined to hear leaves a lower court’s decision in place rejecting attempts by bump stock owners to be compensated for the bump stocks they had legally purchased but were then required to give up after the federal ban went into effect.
The justices without comment rejected two other challenges to a criminal ban.
The justices’ latest decision comes after the panel ruled in a New York case that most people have a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public.