Government, News, Oregon

Oregon Department of Justice asks Oregon Supreme Court to immediately review firearm law ruling

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.

The Oregon Department of Justice filed a petition Wednesday asking the Oregon Supreme Court to immediately review a Harney County judicial order that temporarily stops a voter-approved firearms measure from going into effect on Thursday.

If left unchanged by the court, Measure 114 will ban the sale of high-capacity firearms magazines with more than 10 rounds and put a permit system in place for firearm purchases that requires buyers to undergo a training course with a law enforcement-certified instructor.

The measure, approved by voters in November, has attracted widespread opposition from firearms owners and dealers, as well as law enforcement agencies who say they cannot meet all the requirements of the new permit system by the deadline on Thursday.

The state’s move is the latest in a series of quickly-moving legal actions as lawsuits were filed seeking to stop  Measure 114 from going into effect. Harney County Circuit Judge Robert Raschio’s order came out Wednesday. 

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Just three hours earlier in Portland, U.S. District Court Judge Karin Immergutissued a different decision in a separate lawsuit that sought a temporary restraining order blocking the firearms law while the case proceeds. That order would allow parts of the measure to start on Thursday, including the ban on sales of large-capacity magazines. But it would delay for 30 days the permit requirements so law enforcement agencies can set up a system in line with the training required by the measure, which includes live in-person demonstrations.

The Oregon Department of Justice, which is representing the state and defending the measure in federal court in Portland, wants the state Supreme Court to uphold Immergut’s order.

“We strongly disagree with the decision of the Harney County Circuit Court,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement, adding that the judicial department’s petition will let the state’s highest court to decide.  “Magazine capacity restrictions and permitting requirements have a proven track record: They save lives! We are confident the Oregon constitution – like the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution –allows these reasonable regulations.”

Firearms advocacy groups, owners and others are involved in both lawsuits. 

In the Harney County complaint filed last week, the plaintiffs include Gun Owners of America, based in Virginia, and a related organization, the Gun Owners Foundation along with Joseph Arnold and Cliff Asmussen, two Harney County firearms owners. Gun Owners of America says on its website it has more than 2 million members and lobbies for firearms owners to exercise the “right to keep and bear arms without compromise.”

The Oregon Firearms Federation is the lead plaintiff in the federal case, along with firearms dealers and others.

Separately, Oregon State Police Superintendent Terri Davie updated lawmakers on Wednesday about the permitting process  in a hearing of the Senate Interim Judiciary Committee. Oregon State Police are responsible for devising the permit program. 

Davie said the agency will have a webpage that will go live on Thursday with a permit form for applicants.

With the law currently on hold, purchasers fill out a form while the FBI runs a background check. They have to be done in three business days under the current law. If not, the purchase goes through, and some gun shops appear to be pushing that message to drum up more sales. The new measure seeks to close the loophole that allows purchases to go through if there’s no answer within three business days.
The state police agency is working with local police to sort out the requirements of the measure, Davie said. 

Some of that work, like technology for a new system needed for the permit data, will take years to develop and build out, the agency has said. 

For now, the state police are is using “other means,” including Excel spreadsheets to maintain the personal information of applicants, Davie said.

Davie said police agencies will need to send applicant fingerprint information by mail or courier to the state police agency, which it sends to the FBI for background checks.

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