New Ballot Measure Would Require a Permit to Purchase Firearms

New Ballot Measure Would Require a Permit to Purchase Firearms

A ballot measure in Oregon would require gun owners to obtain a permit to purchase any type of firearm and ban the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Oregonians would be required to submit fingerprints and a photograph, pass a safety training course, and pay a fee both for the license and the course. The measure would also give local law enforcement wide latitude to decide who can obtain a license, and it would require the Department of State Police to maintain a database of permit holders and the firearms they own.

If passed, Oregon would join six other states and the District of Columbia in requiring a permit to purchase any type of firearm. Additionally, eight states plus D.C. currently ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

The campaign to put the measure on the ballot was led by a gun control group called Lift Every Voice Oregon. They collected the required 112,020 signatures, and Oregonians will have a chance to vote on the measure on November 8, 2022.

Supporters

Supporters of Measure 114 argue that the policies will reduce gun-related homicides and suicides in Oregon. In the Preamble outlining the rationale for the measure, the authors note that the people of Oregon have seen a “sharp increase in gun sales, gun violence, and raised fear in Oregonians of armed intimidation.”

“The availability of firearms, including semiautomatic assault rifles and pistols with accompanying large-capacity ammunition magazines, pose a grave and immediate risk to the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of this State,” the Preamble continues.

The initiative has been endorsed by the Oregon Progressive Party, the Oregon Chapter of Moms Demand Action, League of Women Voters of Oregon, Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety, and Ceasefire Oregon, among others.

“When our neighbors are bleeding, we cannot stand idly by. We have an imperative to act,” the Rev. Mark Knutson told Oregon Live. Many of the individual endorsers are faith leaders from the Portland area, and Rev. Knutson leads Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church.

To bolster their support for a permit-to-purchase system, proponents cite research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that reports a 40% decline in the firearm-related homicide rate in Connecticut after the state imposed a permit-to-purchase regime in 1995. By contrast, another study found a 25% increase in firearm-related homicides in Missouri after the state repealed their permit-to-purchase requirement.

Opponents

Opponents of Measure 114 say the law is unconstitutional and will restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners without significantly changing criminal behavior. The National Rifle Association called Measure 114 “the nation’s most extreme gun control initiative,” and Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association has said it “cannot in good faith” support the policy.

The coalition opposing the measure, “Sportsmen Opposed to Gun Violence,” is a who’s who of outdoor organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Deer Association, the Mule Deer Foundation, and Sportsmen’s Alliance.

The Oregon Hunters Association has led the opposition effort, and Policy Director Amy Patrick worries that the measure does not include a grace period to give officials time to set up the permitting system.

“If passed, it would effectively stop firearms purchases for an undetermined amount of time while the framework for the permitting system was decided upon and implemented,” Patrick said. “We already have OSP background checks that take too long. Local law enforcement agencies, which are already strained to provide current services, would have no mandate to offer the required training, and OSP estimates that no permits would be issued in 2023.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation also notes that the measure is likely to impact conservation funding generated through firearm sales.

“Each year, Oregon’s hunters and recreational shooters contribute tens of millions of dollars to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, providing vital revenue to help carry out their mission of managing the state’s diverse fish and wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend,” said Keely Hopkins, the group’s Pacific States & Firearm Policy Manager. “Restrictions to access firearms with standard capacity magazines or through the imposition of a lengthy permitting process would reduce conservation funding in the state through decreased firearm sales.”

While several studies suggest a correlation between permit-to-purchase requirements and a reduction in firearm-related violence, the Rand Corporation points out that none of these studies were able to isolate a permit-to-purchase requirement from other factors that may have impacted homicide and suicide rates in a particular state.

“Because only a single state experienced the law in this study, it is not possible to conclude that the changes were a result of the permit-to-purchase portion of the law as opposed to other factors influencing homicides in the state around the same time,” the research organization says of the Connecticut study reference above.

Due to this uncertainty, they characterize the claims of Measure 114 supporters as “inconclusive.”

What’s in the Measure?

Current Oregon law allows residents to purchase a firearm by passing an instant background check completed at the gun counter. Under Ballot Measure 114, residents would first have to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm.

Prospective gun owners would be required to submit fingerprints and a photograph along with their application for a permit, which state police will use to conduct a criminal background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As part of this background check process, state police and local law enforcement would be given broad latitude in determining whether a person is fit to own a firearm. An officer can deny an applicant if they have “reasonable grounds” to conclude that the applicant “is reasonably likely to be a danger to self or others, or to the community at large, as a result of the applicant’s mental or psychological state or as demonstrated by the applicant’s past pattern of behavior involving unlawful violence or threats of unlawful violence.”

The measure does not specify what criteria law enforcement should use to make that decision.

Prospective gun owners will also be required to submit proof that they have passed a gun safety course “utilizing instructors certified by a law enforcement agency.” The course can be offered by virtually any public or private institution, but it must cover the following topics:

  • Review of laws and other safe practices related to ownership, purchase, transfer, use, and transportation of firearms
  • Review of laws and other safe practices related to safe storage, including reporting lost and stolen guns
  • Prevention of abuse or misuse of firearms, including the impact of homicide and suicide on families, communities, and the country as a whole
  • Demonstrate ability to lock, load, unload, fire, and store a firearm

The first three criteria can be completed online, but the last must be done in front of an instructor. It is unclear whether an applicant could demonstrate the ability to “fire” a gun with dry fire or live fire.

Prospective gun owners will have to pay an anticipated $65 fee for the license along with the cost of the training course. Permits will be valid for five years, and gun owners will be able to renew their licenses for a fee of no more than $50. Renewal applications will not require gun owners to take another safety course.

Measure 114 also requires the State Police to maintain an electronic, searchable database of all permits, which includes any personal identification information the department determines “would be helpful to ensuring the permit-to-purchase process is being administered in a consistent and equitable manner.”

What’s more, the measure requires State Police to attach to a gun owner’s record the information “sufficient to reflect each firearm purchased by a permit holder,” including the make, model, caliber, and serial number. Upon proof of sale or transfer of the firearm to another permit holder, the State Police will reflect that change of ownership in its system.

Measure 114 also bans the manufacture, sale, transfer, and possession of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Current owners of these so-called “large capacity magazines” are free to keep and use them on private property, but all sales will be banned in the state on the day the measure takes effect. Current owners will also be required to lock their magazines in a container separate from their firearms when transporting them to or from the range or hunting.

Violating the magazine ban will be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $6,250, or both. Other examples of Class A misdemeanors are reckless driving and prostitution.

What Now?

Ballotpedia reports that supporters of Measure 114 have far outspent opponents and that the spending gap is paying dividends.

The campaign to pass the measure has generated over $451,000 in donations, $246,000 of which have been spent so far. Opponents, on the other hand, have only raised about $65,000 and spent about $37,000.

Thanks in part to these donations, 51% of likely Oregon voters support Measure 114 while only 39% oppose it, according to a poll commissioned by The Oregonian/OregonLive. An additional 10% of survey respondents say they don’t know whether they will support or oppose Measure 114.

When Oregonians go to the polls on November 8, they’ll have a chance to vote for or against Measure 114 along with their local, state, and federal representatives. Passing requires only a simple majority.

For more information about voting in Oregon, click here.

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