Oregonians will soon vote on a ballot measure that opponents say could virtually end the legal sale of firearms in the state, making it one of the “strictest gun-control measures ever proposed in the nation,” according to Leonard Williamson, an explanatory committee member who opposes the measure.
If voters approve Measure 114, the “Changes to Gun Ownership and Purchase Requirements Initiative,” a permit would be required to obtain any firearm, magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds would be outlawed, some commonly used pump shotguns would be banned because they can exceed the 10 round limit, and State Police would be required to maintain a searchable public database of all permit applications.
Arguments on both sides of the issue began in earnest on July 26 as a five-person committee— comprising two members who helped to draft and promote the citizen-driven ballot measure, another who supports it, and two who oppose it—met to write the 500-word Explanatory Statement that will appear in the voters' guide this fall.
The committee got off to a contentious start as the only statement considered had been provided by proponents. Those opposing the measure called their language “misleading.”
“The Explanatory Committee is charged with preparing an impartial, simple, and understandable statement explaining the ballot measure,” committee member Williamson wrote in a memo to the committee. “By omitting certain key components of the summary, voters are misled as to what the ballot measure will do or not do.”
The measure would enact a law requiring a permit issued by a local law enforcement agency to purchase any firearm. Applicants would have to pay a fee, be fingerprinted, complete safety training, and pass a criminal background check.
In addition, the applicant must complete a hands-on demonstration of basic firearms handling to qualify.
“In order to obtain the permit, an applicant would have to show up with a firearm to demonstrate the ability to load, fire, unload, and store the firearm,” Williamson, an Oregon trial attorney specializing in firearms law, told The Epoch Times. “But you can’t get a firearm without the permit. And under Oregon’s highly restrictive gun storage laws, no one can legally loan a firearm to another. That creates an impassable barrier.”
Opponents claim that the permit and training programs also create an unfunded mandate with no enforcement measures.
“The measure calls upon the Oregon State Police to come up with these [permitting and training] programs, but there’s no consequence if they don’t, and there’s no timeframe for coming up with them,” argued committee member HK Kahng, an engineer and NRA firearms instructor, during the committee meeting.
The measure does not estimate the cost or analyze its impact on small local police departments.
The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association has estimated that even if a person could somehow complete the required training, the permitting process could cost sheriffs almost $40 million annually. But nothing in the measure provides any funding, and the fees included would not come close to covering the costs.
“Numerous police departments and sheriff’s offices have agreed that complying with this measure will either be exorbitantly expensive or impossible,” Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Foundation told The Epoch Times. “None have said they will be offering the training required to apply for the permit to purchase, which sheriffs and local police will be tasked with administering.”
Williamson also expressed concerns that the permit system grants the Oregon State Police “unfettered authority” to inquire into all manner of personal information of the applicant and to deny the applicant the permit for any reason or for simply failing to cooperate.
“No information is off limits,” he claims. “The introduction of highly subjective criteria in [the measure] allows the government significant authority to intrude into the private lives of law-abiding citizens wishing to exercise their protected rights under the Second Amendment.”
The opponents also argue that language describing the magazine ban creates confusion.
The measure allows “registered owners” of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds to retain them so long as they were purchased before the ban.
“But how do you prove when you purchased a magazine?” Williamson asked. “There is no magazine ‘registration.’ They don’t have serial numbers. There’s no way for the average person to prove they had it before the law was passed. That means citizens must prove their innocence.”
Lawfully owned magazines that exceed 10 rounds may not be used for self-defense outside the home. Under the measure, possession would be restricted to the owner’s property, at a gunsmith, on a private shooting range, or during a firearms competition.
“The minute you leave the house, that 15-round magazine is now illegal, and you could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for each magazine in your possession because you’re not in your home or at a gun range,” Williamson explained. “And you could be charged multiple times for the same magazines since magazines do not contain identifying markings.”
“So that could make an otherwise legal gun-owner a criminal overnight,” commented Kahng.
“But they would have time to turn those magazines in,” responded committee member Margaret Onley, an Oregon labor and employment attorney who supports the measure.
In the end, the committee voted 3-2 to adopt the explanatory language with minor changes and submitted it to the Oregon Secretary of State for final approval, leaving opponents frustrated.
“I don’t think you’ll find any precedent in U.S. history in which a citizen has to go through so many hoops to exercise Constitutional rights,” Williamson said. “This is the first of its kind, and if it passes, it will wind up in court.”