Judge Rules Oregon’s Measure 114 Gun Law Violates State Constitution

One of the strictest gun laws in the nation has been ruled unconstitutional by circuit court. But the battle is far from over.
Judge Rules Oregon’s Measure 114 Gun Law Violates State Constitution
Customers shop for firearms in the McBride Guns store in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 25, 2023. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Scottie Barnes
11/22/2023
Updated:
11/22/2023
0:00

Harney County Circuit Court Judge Robert Raschio ruled on Nov. 21 that Oregon’s Measure 114 gun control law violates the state’s constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

The court issued a permanent injunction declaring that Ballot Measure 114 is “facially unconstitutional by a finding of clear and convincing evidence … thereby enjoining its implementation.”

The court found that plaintiffs—Joseph Arnold, Cliff Asmussen, Gun Owners of America, and Gun Owners Foundation—had “shown their rights to bear arms under Article 1, Section 7 of the Oregon Constitution would be unconstitutionally impaired” if the ballot measure is implemented.

“Oregon citizens have a right to self-defense against an imminent threat of harm, which is unduly burdened by Ballot Measure 114,” Judge Raschio wrote.

“We are very pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision and look forward to celebrating with our fellow Oregonians who have been waiting and watching for this opinion,” Tony L. Aiello, Jr, attorney for plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times.”

Initially set to take effect on Dec. 8, 2022, the measure has been on hold since Judge Raschio issued a preliminary injunction allowing parties to argue its legality in federal and state courts.

The injunction will remain in place unless a higher state court overturns his recent decision.

Lawyers for the state immediately announced their plan to appeal.

“The Harney County judge’s ruling is wrong,” wrote Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

“Worse, it needlessly puts Oregonians’ lives at risk. The state will file an appeal and we believe we will prevail.”

Mr. Aiello said he, “looks forward to responding.”

The measure was previously heard in federal court, where U.S. District Judge Karen Immergut ruled in July that it did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs in that case filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This could move the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For Measure 114 to survive, the state must win in both the federal and state courts. Gun rights advocates only have to prevail in one of these cases for the measure to be struck down entirely.

Raschio’s Ruling

For his decision, Judge Raschio reviewed whether the measure is in line with Article 1, Section 27 of the state’s constitution, which states: “The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defense of themselves, and the state, but the military shall be kept in strict subordination to the civil power.”

Mr. Raschio said he restricted his analysis in the state case to the text of the measure rather than how the regulations would be applied.

Oregon Senior Assistant Attorney General Harry B. Wilson and other lawyers representing the state Defendants Gov. Tina Kotek, Ms. Rosenblum, and Oregon State Police Superintendent Casey Codding, argued that the right to bear arms is not absolute.

They said the measure called for reasonable restrictions on gun purchases for people who may be a danger to themselves or others and a reasonable limit on the number of rounds in a gun magazine to reduce homicides and mass shootings.

Narrowly approved by voters in November 2022, the measure requires Oregonians to undergo a background check and take a firearms class, which does not yet exist, to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm.

It also bans magazines that are “capable of holding or being modified to hold” more than 10 rounds.

Gun rights advocates have called it one of the most extreme gun laws in the country, claiming that it will strip law-abiding citizens of their constitutional right to bear arms in the state.

Plaintiffs argued that legal gun sales would end in Oregon should Ballot Measure 114 survive ongoing court challenges.

To qualify for a permit under the measure, an applicant would need to complete an approved, in-person firearm safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing, and pass an FBI criminal background check.

And because the FBI has stated that it would not conduct background checks for the new law, no enforcement officer will be able to issue a permit to purchase a weapon as required by the measure.

The FBI said it would not be able to conduct criminal background checks for a gun purchase and provide them to “sheriffs or their designee.” Doing so would be a crime, the FBI stated, because the measure “does not meet the requirements of Pub. L. 92-544.”

But shortly before Judge Raschio ruled, the FBI inexplicably changed its position and said that it would grant the state of Oregon a “grace period” and provide the checks, allowing the defendants to claim that this objection no longer applied.

Magazine Capacity

Judge Raschio ruled on the “high capacity” magazine provision, relying significantly on the testimony of two sheriffs and an Oregon State Police superintendent.

During the six-day trial in September, Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen and Harney County Sheriff Dan Jenkins testified that their jurisdictions cover large geographic areas where response times can be hours.

They explained that their deputies frequently rely on armed civilians to provide backup for them during incidents and that residents and deputies use their firearms to protect themselves, their families, and their livestock from predators including bears, wolves, and coyotes.

Sheriff Bowen described an incident where he was surrounded by wolves and literally had one “within a few feet” of his left ear before firing off 30 rounds to scare the predators away.

In his decision, Judge Raschio said Sheriff Bowen “demonstrated definitively [that] citizens cannot rely on law enforcement to respond quickly to their needs if they encounter [the] threat of deadly physical harm.

“Victims can be left without a law enforcement response for hours,” he wrote.

“A citizen’s need to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their property is immediate as there is no one else [who] will be there to do it for them.”

On the other hand, he wrote: “The court finds no proof offered that Large Capacity Magazine bans would reduce the number of casualties in the future. Any such conclusion would be mere speculation by the court which it will not engage.”

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.