Oregonians could see a significant change in how they can possess, and use, firearms.
Measure 114, if passed by voters in November, would require permits to buy a firearm, require safety training and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds.
The initiative is backed by Lift Every Voice Oregon, a faith-based coalition that was formed after the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Advocates say the measure could decrease the amount of gun violence in Oregon at schools, grocery stores and public places.
Critics see it as an attack on Second Amendment rights. The National Rifle Association has called the measure “the nation’s most extreme gun control initiative.”
How the measure would work
Permits would be issued by a local sheriff’s office or police department within 30 days of an application being submitted. The cost for a permit would be $65, plus an additional $50 to renew every five years. Background checks would continue to be handled by Oregon State Police.
Currently, Oregon law says state police have three days to run a background check on someone who is trying to purchase a firearm. If results are not returned within three days, a seller can transfer the firearm. Under Measure 114, a seller could not transfer a firearm until the background check is completed.
The measure adds an additional step for those who intend to sell or give someone their firearm. It would require the person attempting to obtain the firearm to first have a permit before going to a federally licensed dealer for a background check.
Regulation could be complex. Police, prosecutors, suppliers and sellers would have to address how to make sure people follow the law.
Enforcement could get political at the local level.
Brian Gallini, dean of the College of Law at Willamette University, said prosecutors would have a large role to play.
“Sometimes what we see is legislation gets passed, and it kind of collects dust and you wonder what happened,” Gallini said. “That’s because the prosecution never really folded it into their prosecutorial enforcement priorities. It really comes down to the enforcement priorities of the various prosecutorial offices across the state.”
What’s happening nationally
As of this year, 14 states have some type of permit-to-purchase, license or certification requirement: Washington, California, Hawaii, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.
Some states, including California, Colorado and Hawaii, have magazine capacity laws.
Following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, Connecticut began introducing more gun legislation. In addition to a permit-to-purchase and magazine capacity law, the state also banned the sale of assault weapons and does not allow the transfer of a handgun to a person who is under 21 or is not permitted to possess a firearm.
Federal legislation has also been passed in an effort to combat gun violence. President Joe Biden this summer signed into law the $13 billion Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which regulates the sale of guns and educates people on crime prevention. The legislation includes more extensive background checks, a longer time period for authorities to obtain records and new federal crimes for gun traffickers with penalties of up to 25 years in prison.
‘Our gun laws are not working’
For Anthony Johnson, the communication director for backers of Measure 114, putting a gun control measure on the ballot is about “safe and effective regulation.”
“I’m a gun owner myself and I believe that people should be able to possess guns, but obviously the status quo of our gun laws are not working,” Johnson said. “We need to implement some common sense, sensible regulations to save lives and Measure 114 will do that.”
Shawn Kollie, an attorney who focuses on Second Amendment rights, said there are problems with the measure. He believes the measure would be unconstitutional and will do nothing to address gun violence. Instead, he said, it criminalizes law-abiding citizens.
“The legislation is reactionary,” Kollie said. “It can be reactionary, but it’s not based in statistics.”
According to Pew Research Center, the national average of gun deaths, both murder and suicide, remains below the highest number recorded in 1977, which was 16.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people. In 2020, there were 13.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
Kollie said creating laws that have “no effect” on combating gun violence just creates more hurdles.
Gallini said focusing the dialogue on whether this infringes on people’s Second Amendment rights is not a “great way to come at the conversation.”
“Often, we talk about the Second Amendment as a binary issue, like I have it all or I have nothing. And that’s simply not what the regulatory history either at the federal or state level has been for decades,” Gallini said.
Chris Van Dyke, who served as the district attorney for Marion County in 1981 when four people were killed and 20 were injured during a shooting at a tavern in Salem, supports the measure.
Salem history:1981 Museum Tavern mass shooting left 4 dead, 20 wounded
Van Dyke lives in Tumalo in central Oregon. In nearby Bend, a 20-year-old shooter killed two people at a Safeway in August before shooting himself. According to police, he had high-capacity magazines in his possession.
In an op-ed in The Bulletin, Van Dyke writes, “It is time to change this horrifying situation and adopt meaningful and common-sense rules for gun ownership. Measure 114 on your ballot in November is your chance to vote YES to help stop these terrible tragedies.”