Measure 114 destined for court fight
Last updated 11/22/2022 at Noon
Opponents have wasted no time in predicting a vigorous and lengthy court challenge to voters’ adoption of Measure 114. By a vote of 953,061 for and 925,252 against, the controversial ballot measure enacted a law outlining a procedure to apply for a permit-to-purchase for a firearm. The measure was designed to have permits be issued by law enforcement. Proponents of the measure, led by the faith-based organization Lift Every Voice, celebrated the passage of the measure, one of the strictest gun control laws in the United States, saying that the law will promote safety and reduce gun deaths.
Applicants are required to pay a fee, submit a photo ID, be fingerprinted, complete approved safety training, pass a criminal background check, and not be prohibited from possessing firearms. Police are able to deny a permit to an applicant believed to be a danger to themself or others, or who is prohibited from possessing a firearm.
The initiative also prohibited the manufacture, importation, possession, use, purchase, sale, or other transferring of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. It made violations a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $6,250, or both.
The measure carried in only six of Oregon’s 36 counties. Deschutes County voters voted down the measure by a tiny fraction — 49.59 percent to 50.41 percent whereas statewide the measure passed with an equally thin 50.7 percent, setting up what opponents are saying is an inevitable and protracted wind through the court system that they predict will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the aftermath of the vote, Oregon State Police report an avalanche of background checks, from an average of 850 per day prior to the vote and 4,000 the day after.
Sheriffs enter the fray
In a post on Facebook, Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson said his office is working on plans to implement the Measure 114 gun permit process. But his office is struggling to fill its ranks.
“Given our limited law enforcement resources, our response to violations of measure 114 will not be a priority for our office,” Nelson said.
Nelson also said he continues to have concerns over whether the measure is constitutional, which he says will be determined by the courts.
Nelson is also head of Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and spoke against the measure prior to the election.
“This measure will not make our community safer,” Nelson said on October 24. “In fact, it will put our communities at greater risk for violence, because it requires every sheriff’s office and police agency to devote scarce safety resources to background systems that already exist.”
Multiple county sheriffs across Oregon have expressed not only their expectation that the law will be overturned on constitutional grounds, but their hope that it will be. Neighboring Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan has already pledged not to enforce at least part of the new law.
In a message posted to Linn County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page November 9, Duncan described Measure 114 as “poorly written” and “a terrible law for gun owners, crime victims, and public safety.
“I want to send a clear message to Linn County residents that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is NOT going to be enforcing magazine capacity limits,” she wrote.
She told local media that she would work with other law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and community members to figure out “the best course of action to take on permitting.
“I want to ensure anything we do or don’t do will not hinder gun owners’ rights to purchase firearms, intentionally or unintentionally,” she wrote.
Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen followed suit, writing on Facebook: “As Union County sheriff I agree 100 percent with Sheriff Duncan! This is an infringement on our constitutional rights and will not be enforced by my office!”
Bowen added that the measure “will only harm law-abiding gun owners and result in wasted time with additional redundant background checks.”
He added: “With no funding from the state to provide additional payroll costs, this will ultimately sacrifice patrol and deputy presence in our community. Another attempt at defunding our police at its finest!”
Jefferson County Sheriff Jason Pollock says his office, bordering Deschutes County, will not enforce Measure 114, joining other sheriffs statewide who are pushing back against the state’s newest gun-control bill.
“With shrinking law enforcement budgets and increasing restraints on law enforcement, I believe citizens must be able to protect themselves,” Pollock said in a Facebook post November 11, which has been shared more than 1,100 times. “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce Measure 114.”
Next door, Crook County Sheriff John Gautney has twice spoken out publicly against Measure 114, calling it unconstitutional.
Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey is on record saying “our office will not enforce Measure 114.” Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers has said he expects the measure to be successfully challenged in court.
According to The Oregonian, even the people who drafted Measure 114 thought that if it was approved, it wouldn’t take effect until the middle of January, a month after votes are certified. But the Secretary of State’s office says that voter-approved measures take effect a month after Election Day. Agencies have a month less than expected to comply.
The measure does not provide any funding for the measure, now law, which the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association estimates will cost nearly $40 million annually to implement.
Firearms dealers are facing uncertainty. Bi-Mart in Sisters reports brisk firearm sales since the measure’s passage, but is unclear how to answer the deluge of customer questions regarding the process.
Oregon Capital Chronicle reported last week that Mark Knutson, chair of Lift Every Voice Oregon, said the group is contacting lawmakers and every sheriff. According to the Chronicle, Knutson stressed that collaboration and an equitable, fair rollout are crucial.
“The key is, for us, this is not a victory of one group over another,” Knutson said. “This is a victory for our children and youth in Oregon and public safety for all of us.”
Gun-rights advocates are said to be drafting at least one lawsuit against the gun-control initiative, which proponents and opponents alike bill as one of the most restrictive in the country.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) said they plan to challenge Measure 114, believing it violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
“We’re already working with our attorneys,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of SAF said in a podcast. “We are on our second draft of the complaint, and we will definitely be filing.”
Gottlieb said his group plans to work with FPC on the suit, finding several Oregon gun owners and licensed dealers who agreed to sign on. Last Tuesday, FPC tweeted that it has already started raising funds to “upset” the “disarmament regime by shredding Oregon Ballot Measure 114.”
Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) says it intends to continue fighting Measure 114.
In a statement released November 14, OHA said:
“OHA, along with the coalition of sportsmen’s groups behind the Sportsmen Opposed to Gun Violence PAC, is continuing to work against the measure and is currently formulating next steps as far as near-term solutions, such as litigation, and long-term solutions, such as legislation. It will take a few days for those plans to be fully formulated and put into place.”
“We’re looking at the end of firearm sales in Oregon until this system is put into place,” Amy Patrick, policy director for OHA said in an interview.
While the Oregon Hunters Association is expected to be a lead plaintiff, other groups focused on hunting and gun rights have entered the fight, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and the NRA.