12:00 p.m. Wednesday
A measure aimed at strengthening Oregon gun laws was being approved Wednesday afternoon, but with more votes still to count.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office’s results showed “Yes” with 50.73% and “No” with 49.27%. The percentage margin had remained relatively unchanged from last Tuesday night even as more votes came in.
Measure 114 includes requiring a permit to obtain a firearm, requiring police to maintain a permit and firearm database and makes it a crime to possess a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds or can be modified to hold more than 10 rounds.
Central Oregon Daily News looked at both sides of the issue, talking with officials for and against the measure. Below is our story.
Oregon Measure 114. Backers call it overdue, common sense gun safety. Opponents say it’s an attack on legal gun owners.
The measure, formally called the Reduction of Gun Violence Act, qualified for the ballot on July 18.
About a month later, a gunman opened fire at a Bend Safeway, killing two people. It brought home the issue of gun control in Central Oregon, a place many believed was protected from the world of senseless violence.
Passionate opinions on the measure draw a line down the the heart of the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.
“Enough killing has happened. We need to have something change,” said Thiel Larson of Lift Every Voice, a religious coalition that put Measure 114 on the ballot. “There are so many guns in this country.”
“Responsible gun ownership is fine, but we need to stop the killing of children and innocence,” Larson adds.
Many gun owners concur.
“The ballot measure says reduce gun violence. And I don’t know of anybody in Oregon who is against reducing gun violence and preventing mass shootings,” said Rick Coufal of the Oregon Sport Shooting Association.
But that’s where the agreement ends for this retired military and law enforcement member-turned firearms instructor.
“The problem is the way this bill is written and how poorly it was written,” said Coufal.
He says the loose ends of the bill include no funding; no training standards; and numerous, unnecessary restrictions.
Measure 114 would not change the minimum age for buying a gun — 18 years old for most firearms and 21 for some handguns.
It would require a permit in order to buy a gun, with the permit costing $65. That permit would be good for five years. After that, a $50 renewal would be required.
A buyer would be fingerprinted and have to go through mandatory safety training.
Plus, the buyer must undergo a criminal background check that could take up to 30 days, replacing the current three-day waiting period.
“But the background check policy is already there,” said Coufal. “It’s being used, it’s very effective and we don’t have that issue if we had a good mental health program.”
Backers of 114 says the current system is not working.
“Well, it will slow the sale of the guns by having a background check and having permits and having training that slows the use of the gun,” said Larson.
If passed, Measure 114 would also create a statewide gun owner data base.
Then there’s the very controversial ban on high capacity magazines — those that hold More than 10 rounds of ammunition. Police found the Safeway shooter had numerous high capacity magazines. While measure 114 would not ban the weapon he used, it would ban the high-capacity magazine.
“There are millions of high capacity magazine already purchased in people homes that they have,” said Coufal.
A violation on that ban could be punished by up to nearly a year in jail, a fine of more than $6,200 or both.
The measure does say an owner of high capacity magazines can keep them. But they would be restricted to use on that owner’s private property or a shooting range.
What is not written into Measure 114 is, for some, spelled out in its implication. Opponents say 114 would be just the beginning — a step towards weakening the Second Amendment.
“I believe that is the end game. They’re doing it one bite out of the apple at a time,” said Coufal.
Proponents of 114 say that’s not true.
“I don’t think that we’re out to take all your guns. I think we’re out to do things that are common sense that will stop mass shootings. That’s important,” said Larson.
The Oregon State Sheriff’s Association also opposes the measure. Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, who is the OSSA president, said in a video released Oct. 24 that the measure would move important resources away from responding to calls and into managing a firearm permits system. And it comes at a time that most agencies are experiencing staffing issues.
Nelson said law enforcement would have to create and fund the permit process out of local budgets, which the OSSA reports would cost agencies more than $49 million per year. While permits would raise revenue, how much money would come in depends on how many people file applications.
Pass or fail in November, Oregon’s trail to gun control will no doubt be closely watched and possibly followed by other states that are already calling Measure 114 one of the most restrictive gun control measures in the country.