Oregon judge halts voter-approved high-capacity magazine ban

Dec 15, 2022, 12:49 AM | Updated: 5:46 pm
FILE - Firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Ore., on Feb. 19, 2021. An Oregon judge on Tu...

FILE - Firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Ore., on Feb. 19, 2021. An Oregon judge on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, extended an earlier order blocking a key part of a new, voter-approved gun law and was hearing lengthy arguments on whether to also prevent the law's ban on high-capacity magazines from taking effect. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon judge handed guns rights advocates a victory Thursday and placed a new, voter-approved ban on high-capacity magazines that was intended to curtail mass shootings on hold until questions about its constitutionality can be decided.

Harney County Judge Robert Raschio released the written ruling after a lengthy court hearing earlier this week in which attorneys for gun rights groups sought a preliminary injunction to stop the narrowly passed ban on magazines of more than 10 rounds.

“That the large capacity magazine bans promote public safety is mere speculation,” Raschio wrote. “The court cannot sustain restraint on a constitutional right on mere speculation that the restriction could promote public safety.”

With the injunction in place, all provisions of the law are effectively on hold a little more than a month after voters narrowly passed it in midterm elections. Earlier this week, Raschio extended his order blocking the law’s permit-to-purchase provision, as well as a part of Measure 114 that would prevent a gun sale until the results of a background check come back. Under current federal law, a gun sale can proceed by default if the background check takes longer than three business days — the so-called Charleston loophole, because it allowed the assailant to purchase the gun used in a 2015 South Carolina mass shooting.

The lawsuit in Harney County, filed by Gun Owners of America Inc., the Gun Owners Foundation and several individual gun owners, seeks to have the entire law placed on hold while its constitutionality is decided. The state lawsuit specifically makes the claims under the Oregon Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. Burns, the town where the lawsuit was filed, is more than 280 miles (450 kilometers) southeast of Portland in a rural and sparsely populated corner of the state.

Gun rights advocates, including those who were unable to stop the high-capacity magazine ban in a separate federal lawsuit last week, cheered the news.

“For now, your standard capacity magazines are safe,” the Oregon Firearms Federation wrote to its members in a statement.

Mark Knutson, chairman of the interfaith Lift Every Voice Oregon campaign and pastor at Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, said the ruling was a “bump in the road.”

“It was passed by voters and it’s going to save lives,” he said. “We expect it to be fully implemented. There are bans on large-capacity magazines in 12 states plus (Washington), D.C. already.”

Measure 114 requires a permit, criminal background check, fingerprinting and hands-on training course for new firearms buyers. It also bans the sale, transfer or import of gun 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 own high-capacity magazines can only possess them in their homes or use them at a firing range, in shooting competitions or for hunting as allowed by state law after the measure takes effect.

Raschio said in his 25-page ruling that he would wait until the state told him it had a process in place for issuing the permits before holding a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction on that element of the law. Oregon has already paused enforcement of the permit provision until Feb. 8 as it finds enough certified firearms trainers for the hands-on classes. A hearing on the background check provisions is set for Dec. 23.

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

Gun rights groups, local sheriffs and gun store owners have filed at least four lawsuits, almost all in federal court, saying the law violates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. The Harney County lawsuit is the only one filed in state court, gun rights advocates said.

A federal judge in Portland hearing a different challenge to the law under the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 6 delivered an initial victory to proponents of the sweeping gun-control measure that passed in the Nov. 8 midterms.

In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut allowed the ban on the sale and transfer of new high-capacity magazines to take effect. She also granted a 30-day delay before the law’s permit-to-purchase mandate takes effect, but did not quash it entirely as gun rights advocates had wanted.

Raschio’s subsequent ruling the same day threw the law into limbo: Because that lawsuit challenged Measure 114 under the Oregon Constitution, it held precedence in the state, legal experts said.

The law’s fate is being carefully watched by both gun rights advocates and those who want stricter limits on gun ownership. It would be one of the first to take effect since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June struck down a New York law that placed limits on carrying guns outside the home.

The June ruling signaled a shift in the way the nation’s high court will evaluate Second Amendment infringement claims, with the Supreme Court’s conservative majority finding judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests like enhancing public safety.

Instead, judges should only weigh whether the law is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.”

The legal focus in Oregon’s state court this week highlighted the historical context of when Oregon’s constitution was enacted, and on the firearms landscape at that time. The Oregon Constitution was enacted in 1859, nearly 70 years after the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

Expert witnesses for the plaintiffs and the state gave conflicting opinions about whether “multi-shot” firearms were commercially available and widely known during that era.

Raschio wrote that the plaintiffs had proven to his satisfaction that such large-capacity magazine guns existed at the time and that modern guns are “the direct descendants from the firearms at the time of statehood.”

He also wrote that defendants’ assertions that high-capacity magazines lead to more mass shootings was “mere speculation.”

“The court finds that there is less than a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of a person being a fatality in a mass shooting in Oregon, and even less with an offender who is using a large capacity magazine,” he wrote.

State laws requiring a permit to purchase a firearm were associated with 60% lower odds of having a public mass shooting, according to a study published in 2020. Limits on large-capacity magazines, meanwhile, were linked with 38% fewer people killed in mass shootings.

Defendants noted in their legal filings that every mass shooting since 2004 that resulted in 14 or more deaths involved gun magazines with 10 or more rounds.


Associated Press writer Gene Johnson in Seattle and Lindsey Whitehurst in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.


Follow Gillian Flaccus here.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston Starbucks repor...
Associated Press

Starbucks misses sales, revenue estimates as China falters

Starbucks reported lower-than-expected sales in its fiscal first quarter, with COVID store shutdowns in China overshadowing stronger results elsewhere.
23 hours ago
A girl looks at a photo of the famed mountain lion known as P-22 as the exhibit wall is covered wit...
Associated Press

Famed LA mountain lion’s death shines light on tribal talks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The life of Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion followed a path known only to the biggest of Hollywood stars: Discovered on-camera in 2012, the cougar adopted a stage name and enjoyed a decade of celebrity status before his tragic death late last year. The popular puma gained fame as P-22 […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A ferry berths as a partially illuminated Colombo Lotus Tower, a multi complex digital trans...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had announced a boycott of the celebration in the capital, while activists and others expressed anger at what they see as […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Friday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Chiawana 84, Hanford 44 Cle Elum/Roslyn 78, Kittitas 25 Clover Park 75, Washington 53 Crescent 44, Clallam Bay 34 Davis 65, Sunnyside 63 DeSales 81, Sunnyside Christian 67 Eastside Prep 59, University Prep 51 Enumclaw 57, Franklin Pierce 48 Foss 71, Orting 41 Gonzaga Prep 62, Ferris 50 Kelso 67, Evergreen (Vancouver) […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Friday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Anacortes 70, Sedro-Woolley 18 Archbishop Murphy 64, Marysville-Pilchuck 14 Bellevue Christian 37, Annie Wright 31 Black Hills 43, Rochester 33 Cheney 39, North Central 36 Chiawana 65, Hanford 36 Clarkston 72, Pullman 29 Clover Park 51, Washington 18 College Place 52, Kiona-Benton 23 Colton 73, St. John-Endicott/Lacrosse 24 Columbia River 38, Ridgefield […]
23 hours ago
FILE - The American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, ...
Associated Press

China balloon: Many questions about suspected spy in the sky

WASHINGTON (AP) — What in the world is that thing? A massive white orb sweeping across U.S. airspace has triggered a diplomatic maelstrom and is blowing up on social media. China insists it’s just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds. With only limited “self-steering” capabilities. […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Oregon judge halts voter-approved high-capacity magazine ban