Oregon high court won’t let voter gun control measure begin

Dec 6, 2022, 9:24 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 5:13 am
FILE - Firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Ore., on Feb. 19, 2021. A federal judge in Po...

FILE - Firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Ore., on Feb. 19, 2021. A federal judge in Portland, Ore., ruled Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, that a new voter-passed ban on high-capacity gun magazines can go into effect Thursday, Dec. 8, but placed a 30-day hold on a permit-to-purchase requirement after local and state law enforcement agencies said they could not have a permitting system ready in time. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s tough, voter-approved gun control law remains temporarily blocked after the Oregon Supreme Court declined to overturn an earlier decision preventing the measure from taking effect Thursday.

Chief Justice Martha Walters late Wednesday denied the emergency motion to intervene, filed earlier in the day by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenbaum.

The measure includes a ban on the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines. It also requires permits, criminal background checks, fingerprinting and hands-on training courses for new gun buyers.

Harney County Judge Robert Raschio blocked it Tuesday, just hours after a federal judge ruled in favor of the law. The Oregon Department of Justice argued in an urgent filing that Raschio got it wrong.

“Magazine capacity restrictions and permitting requirements have a proven track record: they save lives!” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “We are confident the Oregon Constitution — like the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution — allows these reasonable regulations.”

Several lawsuits have challenged the measure, which voters narrowly approved last month. The measure’s fate is being carefully watched as one of the first new gun restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a New York law limiting the carrying of guns outside the home.

The Oregon measure bans the sale, transfer or import of magazines over 10 rounds unless they are owned by law enforcement or a military member or were owned before the measure’s passage. Those who already possess high-capacity magazines can have them only in their homes or use them at firing ranges, in shooting competitions, or for hunting, as allowed by state law after the measure takes effect.

It would also close a federal loophole that allows gun transfers to proceed if background checks cannot be completed quickly.

U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut delivered an initial victory Tuesday to the measure’s proponents, ruling that the ban on the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines could take effect Thursday. She also granted a 30-day delay before the law’s permit-to-purchase mandate takes effect, but she did not quash it entirely, as gun rights advocates had wanted.

Hours later, the Harney County judge put the law on hold. In that case, Gun Owners of America Inc., the Gun Owners Foundation and several individual owners alleged that the measure violates Oregon’s constitution and sought to have it blocked while that question was decided.

Gun sales and requests for background checks soared in the weeks since the election because of fears the new law would prevent or significantly delay the purchase of new firearms under the permitting system.

Gun rights groups, sheriffs and gun store owners have sued, saying the law violates Americans’ right to bear arms. All those lawsuits were filed in federal courts except for the one in Harney County, a gun rights group said late Tuesday.

A hearing on the Harney County judge’s order is set for Tuesday.

“We are, of course, deeply troubled by the ruling that came out of the Federal Court today. We are also grateful for the opposing ruling from the Harney County Judge this afternoon,” the Oregon Firearms Federation wrote. “But no matter what, there is a long way to go.”

The Supreme Court decision on the New York law signaled a shift in how the nation’s high court will evaluate Second Amendment infringement claims, with the conservative majority finding that judges should no longer consider whether a law serves public interests like enhancing public safety, and instead weigh only whether the law is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.”

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Oregon high court won’t let voter gun control measure begin