An Oregon judge blocked the state from enforcing a voter-approved law dubbed the nation’s “most extreme” gun control measure by critics, ruling it violates the state constitution.
“This Thanksgiving, we can be thankful for Article I, section 27 and its continued protection of our right to bear arms,” Tony Aiello Jr., who represented two Harney County gun owners in the case, told Fox News via email.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum immediately vowed to appeal the ruling, which could eventually end up before the state Supreme Court.
“The Harney County judge’s ruling is wrong,” Rosenblum said in a statement provided to Fox News. “Worse, it needlessly puts Oregonians’ lives at risk.”
Oregonians passed Measure 114 one year ago with 50.65% of the vote and just six of the state’s 36 counties supporting it. The law requires a permit to purchase any gun, bans the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and has been called “the nation’s most extreme gun control Initiative” by groups like the NRA’s legislative arm.
Measure 114 never took effect due to immediate legal challenges at both the federal and state level.
On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Robert S. Raschio ruled both the magazine ban and permit-to-purchase requirement violate Article 1, Section 27 of Oregon’s constitution, which reads in part, “the people shall have the right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves, and the State.”
Much of the state’s case focused on which firearms were common at the time Oregon ratified its constitution in 1857. History professors testified for the state that firearms capable of holding many rounds were “vanishingly rare,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“Semiautomatic technology and automatic technology are such profound ruptures in the history of firearms technology, that I find it very difficult to believe that anybody — even someone very well informed — in the late 1850s could have predicted the emergence of smokeless powder, detachable cartridges, automatic reloading,” said Bryan DeLay of the University of California, Berkeley.
But Ashley Hlebinsky, a former firearm museum curator, testified for the plaintiffs that many early guns could fire multiple rounds and that some models with magazine-style devices existed around the time Oregon became a state.
Raschio ruled that large capacity magazines were available in the early 1800s and that gunsmiths were actively trying to improve upon the technology.
“The idea that Oregon’s pioneers intended to freeze the firearm technology accessible by Oregonians to antiques is ridiculous on its face,” Aiello told Fox News on Wednesday. “If there is any evidence of such an intention, Defendants certainly did not present any of it at trial.”
The permit system has been one of the most controversial parts of the measure. Gun buyers would be required to complete an “in-person demonstration of the applicant’s ability to lock, load, unload, fire and store a firearm before an instructor certified by a law enforcement agency” — a much stricter process than what is currently required to obtain even a concealed handgun license in Oregon.
Lawyers for the state argued the permit system and magazine capacity limit were necessary to curb homicides, suicides and mass shootings.
In 2015, a man armed with five handguns, a rifle and several magazines killed nine people and wounded eight others at Umpqua Community College. Last year, a man wielding a shotgun and what police described as an “AR-style” rifle killed two people and injured two more at a Safeway in Bend.
But Raschio wrote in his ruling that state lawyers “failed to provide any convincing evidence of a threat to public safety requiring a permitting process” and that, to the contrary, the potential delays in processing a permit application would flip the protections of the right to bear arms “on its head.”
“This legal battle is not over,” Aiello wrote after the ruling. “However, we hope that the strength of the Court’s ruling gives our Attorney General pause on filing that appeal and continuing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars defending this ill-conceived ballot measure.”
Federal Judge Karin Immergut previously ruled in July that Oregon’s law is in line with a U.S. tradition of “regulating uniquely dangerous features of weapons and firearms to protect public safety.”
Plaintiffs are currently appealing that ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.