Federal Judge Upholds Oregon Anti-Gun Initiative

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posted on July 24, 2023
Oregoncapitol
Doug Kerr courtesy Flickr

Oregon’s extremely restrictive gun-control initiative, passed by a narrow 50.6 to 49.4% vote last November, has been upheld by a federal judge.

Earlier this year, America’s 1st Freedom contributor Charles C.W. Cooke explained why Ballot Measure 114 is unconstitutional, but on July 14, U.S. District Court Judge Karin Immergut of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon ruled just the opposite.

As approved by voters, Ballot Measure 114 creates a government registry of gun owners’ personal information and firearms, requires a permit to purchase a firearm, imposes an indefinite delay on background checks and bans any magazine with over a 10-round capacity. And that’s just for starters.

One of the main sticking points with the measure is the fact that the permit-to-purchase is a misnomer. As NRA-ILA pointed out in a news story announcing its lawsuit—Eyre v. Rosenblum—the process requires individuals to complete several burdensome tasks to acquire a permit, but it does not actually permit them to purchase a firearm. In fact, the measure’s text specifically states, “A permit-to-purchase issued under this section does not create any right of the permit holder to receive a firearm.”

The case against the ballot measure was so compelling that a county judge blocked the measure, and shortly after that, the Oregon Supreme Court denied a request by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) to reinstate the law.

Immergut saw things differently in her recent decision.

“Before this court are two core questions: (1) can the state of Oregon limit the number of bullets to 10, that a law-abiding citizen can fire without reloading; and (2) can the state of Oregon require firearm purchasers to obtain a permit, which imposes various requirements, including a completed background check, safety training and consideration of mental health status, before purchasing a firearm,” Immergut wrote in her written opinion in Oregon Firearms Federation v. Fitz. “After a weeklong bench trial, this court concludes that the answer to each of these questions is yes.”

“In sum, this court finds that Defendants and Intervenor-Defendants produced sufficient evidence at trial to show that mass shootings related to LCMs are an unprecedented societal concern,” Immergut wrote. “Incidents of mass shootings were rare even a half century ago and have increased rapidly in recent years.”

As for the constitutionality of the so-called “permit-to-purchase,” what Oregon has done clearly sits outside of the “historical tradition” criteria set down in last year’s  Bruen decision. Throughout most of U.S. history, law-abiding American citizens have not been required to procure a permit before exercising their core Second Amendment rights. At the margins, some regulation of the time, place and manner in which the right to keep and bear arms is exercised may pass constitutional muster. But Measure 114’s central rule—that law-abiding citizens cannot so much as obtain a lawfully available firearm without clearance from the state, which in this case does not even allow them to purchase a firearm—can obviously not be said to be among them.

Rather than admit that requiring a permit to purchase a gun, along with all the requirements that come with it, goes against historical tradition, in her opinion, Immergut instead compared the provision to shall-issue right-to-carry laws on the books in several states.

“Accordingly, this court holds that BM114’s permitting provisions do not, on their face, violate the Second Amendment,” she wrote. “BM114’s permitting provisions contain the kind of narrow, objective criteria endorsed as constitutional in Bruen.”

Fortunately for Oregon’s law-abiding gun owners and those who might wish to purchase a firearm or standard-capacity magazine in the future, the implementation of the law will remain on hold until the resolution of a second state court case challenging the ballot initiative, which is scheduled to be heard in September.

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