November 24, 2022

Oregon voters could decide on new gun requirements |

Only two initiatives appear likely to qualify for a statewide vote on Nov. 8 as Oregon’s deadline for petitioners to submit signatures approaches.

This deadline is Friday. The state Division of Elections will have up to 30 days to verify signatures, usually done by sampling.

Mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, Texas, have given impetus to supporters of a measure to establish new requirements for gun licenses and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds each .

By the end of May, they had submitted barely 2,500 of the 112,020 signatures required to qualify him for the national ballot. A week before the deadline, that total had risen to around 120,000 – and a chief petitioner says the target is 140,000.

The Rev. Dr. WJ Mark Knutson, pastor of the Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, said a wet spring and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic slowed efforts to collect signatures from 500 volunteers.

Then came Buffalo, where 10 black people were shot May 14 in a supermarket, and Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers died 10 days later at Robb Elementary School.

“People were saying they couldn’t sit down anymore, so we had 1,000 new volunteers show up to join the 500,” Knutson said in an interview. “Many were parents with children – it was quite amazing. They are learning about democracy.

“The process is as important as the outcome – the democratic action of the people. In this country right now, we need to see democracy in action.”

In addition to the limit on ammunition magazines, the measure would require people to undergo classroom and live-fire training before obtaining a firearms license and complete background checks. (Current law allows a buyer to get a gun even if the check is incomplete after three days; the measure would require the check to be cleared.)

The other initiative pending qualification for the ballot is a proposed constitutional amendment to bar lawmakers from seeking re-election if they have 10 or more absences that have not been excused by the Senate Speaker or President. from the room. Lawyers submitted 183,942 signatures; the requirement for a constitutional amendment is 149,360.

Public servants unions led the campaign for the measure after walkouts by minority Republicans hampered legislative action in 2019 and 2020. The 2020 walkouts forced majority Democrats to scuttle proposed climate change legislation and to end the short session. (Republican senators went out for a day in 2021; Republicans in the House were deterred from doing so by a 2021 rule that set a maximum daily fine of $500 for wrongful absence.)

The Oregon Constitution sets signing requirements at a share of the votes cast for governor in the last election. It’s 6% for an initiative that changes state law and 8% for a constitutional amendment.

Voters will also see two constitutional amendments returned by the 2021 legislature. One would define health care as a right; the other would abolish slavery as a punishment for crime.

The Lift Every Voice Oregon movement has also launched another initiative to ban assault weapons. Although technically still alive, Knutson said the defenders chose to focus their efforts on the other measure.

“That one will save more lives,” he said. “The license (the requirement) applies to all firearms. People can currently buy firearms without training, without knowing how they work and without understanding what they can do.”

The limit on magazines, he said, “would remove ammunition from assault weapons.”

Assuming the measure is eligible on the ballot and voters pass it, he said, supporters will introduce a version of the assault weapons ban to the 2023 legislature.

“This will be their opportunity to make meaningful change after what voters just did,” Knutson said. if lawmakers follow through, he added, “Oregon will at some point have passed the most comprehensive firearms legislation in the nation. We think that will give hope to other states — and in Congress.”

In 2000, Oregon voters approved an initiative to require background checks on buyers at gun shows. They did so after the legislation passed the Senate but stalled in the House; Republicans then had majorities in both houses.

While Democrats had a majority in both houses, they passed bills requiring dealers to conduct background checks for private gun sales (2015), empowering judges to keep firearms from people at “extreme risk” of harming themselves or others (2017), closing the boyfriend loophole for those convicted of domestic violence offenses for possessing firearms, even when the victims were members of the same household (2018), and requiring trigger locks and safe gun storage (2021). The 2021 law also prohibits concealed handgun license holders from bringing firearms into the Salem State Capitol and the passenger terminal at Portland International Airport. School boards can extend these prohibitions to buildings and grounds of public schools, community colleges and universities.