Chaos and Confusion Over Oregon’s New Gun Control Measure

Chaos and Confusion Over Oregon’s New Gun Control Measure
Firearms on the shelf at a gun shop in Jersey City, N.J., on March 25, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Scottie Barnes

After five days of whiplash-inducing legal skirmishes, Oregonians still await clarity on the state’s recently adopted gun control measure.

Federal Judge Karin Immergut on Dec. 6 denied plaintiffs a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of Ballot Measure 114, but granted the state a 30-day delay on the permit-to-purchase portion of the new rules.

Hours later, Harney County Circuit Court Judge Robert Raschio issued a TRO for the entire measure on the grounds that it violates the state constitution.

Passed with just 50.7 percent of the vote, Ballot Measure 114 requires Oregonians to undergo a background check and take a class, which does not yet exist, to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm. It also bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

The Oregon Firearms Federation, Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey, and gun shop owner Adam Johnson filed the first lawsuit against the measure in U.S. District Court on Nov, 20. The plaintiffs requested an order to prevent the measure from taking effect while a judge decides if it meets constitutional muster.

Their complaint primarily took issue with the magazine ban, arguing that it violates both their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and the Due Process Clause.

Four other suits, all naming Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum as defendants, followed quickly.

Plaintiffs in Oregon Firearm Federation v. the State of Oregon received the first hearing on Dec. 2, with oral arguments before Trump-appointed Immergut.

In that hearing, the Oregon Attorney General’s Office reassured the court that the permit-to-purchase system required by the new measure would be ready by Dec. 8 when the law was to take effect.

The court’s public gallery erupted in laughter at the pledge, as many gun rights advocates have been skeptical that the state police or local sheriffs could have such a system in place in such a short period of time.

Immergut postponed her ruling through the weekend.

“This is a very complicated area of law," she stated.

Immergut said she wanted to review the two sides' arguments and the cases they referenced before making her decision, particularly given a recent Supreme Court ruling in New York v. Bruen, which dramatically changed the standards that must be applied to gun laws.

"It's a new landscape," she added.

As Immergut was considering her decision, the attorney general reversed course on the assurances given in the courtroom.

In a Dec. 4 letter to the judge, Rosenblum requested a 60-day extension of the permit-to-purchase provision in Measure 114.

The request "was made only after local law enforcement clarified that they would not be able to process permit applications as soon as Dec. 8, when Measure 114 takes effect," the AG's letter stated.

"... other parts of the measure should take effect as scheduled, including the process for applying for permits, the restrictions on large capacity magazines, and the requirement that background checks must be completed—and not just requested—before firearms can be transferred," the letter continued.

On Dec. 6, Immergut released her 43-page opinion, in which she denied the request for a TRO, calling it an “extraordinary and drastic remedy,” but granted the state a 30-day postponement of the permit-to-purchase provision.

Hours after Immergut’s decision went public, Judge Raschio ruled in favor of another plaintiff, Gun Owners of America, granting their request for a TRO and finding that the measure violates the Oregon Constitution.

That ruling will temporarily stay the law, “unless the state seeks an emergency review from the court of appeals to stay the injunction,” Leonard Williamson, attorney for the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF) told The Epoch Times.

The state has until Dec. 13 to respond.

“We are, of course, deeply troubled by the ruling that came out of the Federal Court today,” the federation’s Kevin Starrett told The Epoch Times in an email. “We are also grateful for the opposing ruling from the Harney County Judge. But no matter what, there is a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, the measure has created confusion among police agencies and firearms dealers alike.

It mandates instruction on state and federal gun laws, safe storage, the effect of suicide and homicide on the community, how to report lost or stolen firearms, as well as an in-person demonstration of locking, unloading, firing, and storing a gun.

The Oregon State Sheriffs Association “is not aware of any training program that is currently available and meets all of Measure 114’s strict requirements,” the organization's executive director Jason Myers wrote in a statement to the court.

Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner, president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, told the federal court that “it’s unclear who’s responsible to do the [required] training.”

Both organizations claim the law would cost local governments $49 million annually and divert public safety resources.

Oregon’s firearms industry is booming. Since the measure passed, gun shops have seen a four-fold increase in sales.

With more than 40,000 applicants now waiting for approval of their background check, compared with roughly 8,000 before the Measure passed, some gun shops are legally using the three-day rule—which gun control advocates call the Charleston loophole—to complete sales.

That rule allows dealers to sell a weapon if state police do not complete the background check in the required three-day timeframe.

Scottie Barnes writes breaking news and investigative pieces for The Epoch Times from the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in researching the implications of public policy and emerging technologies on areas ranging from homeland security and national defense to forestry and urban planning.