Gun measure on hold following judge’s order
Last updated 1/11/2023 at Noon
A circuit court judge in Burns in Harney County has temporarily blocked the entirety of Ballot Measure 114, a controversial gun control law narrowly enacted by voters last November. Presiding Judge Robert Raschio of the 24th Judicial District ruled: “The court declines to remove the background check provisions from the [temporary restraining order] as the provisions are intertwined with the permit-to-purchase program and the court has made no final determination on constitutionality of the program.”
Arguments were made before the judge on Dec-ember 23 and he took a week to deliberate. The core of the arguments were language-based, and dealt primarily with the background check provisions of the law. The arguments were highly technical in nature, and not made-for-TV courtroom drama.
Opponents of the measure have long argued before and after passage that the wording of the measure was fraught with misleading and confusing verbiage. An example of the complexity of the debate was demonstrable:
“The court would be separating sentences at commas and considering the phrase ‘permit holder’ surplusage,” the judge wrote in his order, using a legal term for irrelevant language. “It is not surplusage.”
He said he would rule on severability only if the permit requirement is ultimately found to be unconstitutional. The measure says that if any “articles, sections, subsections, sentences or clauses” are blocked or found to be unconstitutional, the voters still want the remaining portions to be implemented.
The permit-to-purchase program is on hold until the State creates a new application and review process to which Raschio and a federal judge must approve.
Opponents promised sweeping legal challenges to the measure even before its passage. Earlier in December Raschio ruled that restrictions in Ballot Measure 114 prohibiting the purchase and carry of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition “unduly frustrate the right to bear arms” under Oregon’s Constitution.
“Based upon the preliminary evidence, the result of BM 114 would be a near absolute prohibition on handguns and many other firearms with their magazines,” Raschio wrote, unconvinced by the State’s expert witnesses testifying in the opposite view.
“I am convinced that there’s irreparable harm to the constitutional right to bear arms under Article 1 Section 27 if I do not,” Raschio said at his December 15 ruling.
Raschio’s orders have effectively blocked all provisions of Measure 114 pending a trial on its constitutionality. Essentially, firearms can still be purchased as before the law.
Several challenges to the measure are winding their way through the courts. There are four cases before federal courts arguing that the law violates the second amendment of the Constitution, the right to bear arms.
Legal scholars say that it will take months, maybe a year or more, to be fully litigated in Oregon. Plaintiffs are prepared to appeal any adverse rulings to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Passions are high on both sides as they muster legal teams and strategies. The law has been called one of the most restrictive gun control initiatives in the nation.
For the state-level case, a hearing has yet to be scheduled but the Oregon Department of Justice has already said they are asking the state Supreme Court to review Raschio’s lower court rulings.
In the federal case, three days of oral arguments are scheduled for the end of February that will decide if the judge will order a preliminary injunction, blocking the law pending a full trial.
The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police is coordinating with Oregon State Police and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association to create a permit-to-purchase system that meets the requirements of Measure 114. However, they say that no system is currently in place and thus no permits to purchase can be issued.
The Association claims Measure 114 is a financial burden to law enforcement agencies, and said the revenue generated by the permits does not cover the cost of their expenditures.
“Most law enforcement agencies don’t have the personnel or money necessary to fund this required program,” the Association wrote in a press release. “This will likely result in other public safety resources being reduced to cover the costs of implementing a new permit program.”
On December 5, just three days before the regulations were to become effective, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced that Oregon’s DOJ wants a postponement of some aspects of the measure pending judicial review.
Since passage of the measure, gun shops have faced a surge in demand. Under law, purchasers are required to pass a background check before buying a gun. Oregon State Police, who conduct the background checks, is overwhelmed with a backlog of requests that could take months to process. Under federal law, if a background check is not processed in three days, dealers can legally sell a gun, rifle, or semiautomatic weapon