Illustration showing an automatic rifle overgrown by small leafy plants. The plants represent the regrowth and healing that communities affected by gun violence stand to gain in the wake of Measure 114. Illustration by Lula Hugo.

Oregon’s Measure 114 passed by 50.6% during the 2022 midterm elections, and it introduces new gun control rules and regulations for the state. These updated regulations include a required “Permit to Purchase,” which includes background checks, fingerprinting, and safety training for all citizens purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed arms dealer. The measure also placed “large-capacity magazines” into regulation, which limits ammunition magazines to a maximum of 10 rounds. 

Many believe that Measure 114 was placed on the General Election ballot to help reduce gun violence specifically in high gun violence areas such as Portland. According to a 2020 study by Johns Hopkins, “firearm purchaser licensing laws that require an in-person application or fingerprinting are associated with an estimated 56 percent fewer fatal mass shootings in states that have them.” The study also states that banning magazines that exceed 10 rounds also contributes to a reduced number of fatal mass shootings with more than four victims.

While there are many states that have little to no regulation on firearms, the states with laws similar to Measure 114 have seen significant decreases in the overall number of shootings in the state. Many states’ only regulations when purchasing a gun is a waiting period, of anywhere from two to 60 days, before a purchased weapon can be passed into the possession of the buyer. While this waiting period is usually set in place to ensure a background check is cleared, many states only have the delay without any other provisions. 

On Dec. 6 2022, just two days before the measure was to go into effect, the Gun Owners of America challenged the measure under Oregon’s constitution in Harney County circuit court. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, “the case […] argued that the new voter-approved gun laws violate the state constitutional right to bear arms.” Harney County Judge Robert S. Rashcio ordered a temporary restraining order against all provisions of 114. According to The Oregonian, “Rashcio’s order came three hours after a federal judge allowed the measure to take effect as planned with [only] a 30-day delay in the provision that requires a permit to buy a gun.” 

The aforementioned federal judge, Karin J. Immergut, serves on the United States district court for Oregon. In Immergut’s ruling, it is stated that “[The Oregon Firearms Federation Inc.] argue that these measures do little to protect public safety and instead violate their Second, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.” This hearing focuses on the legality of the claims made by the plaintiffs, as they failed on multiple counts to establish a likelihood that specific provisions of 114 indeed do violate the amendments they challenged it under, specifically the Second Amendment. Eventually the defendant’s claim, which the court ruled in favor of, states “that the burden imposed by Measure 114 on the core Second Amendment right of self-defense is minimal.” Immergut’s ruling came as a shock to some but many who believe 114 can help decrease gun violence celebrated the ruling. 

Due to the direct challenge in Harney County, and the federal case challenged under US Constitution Amendments, the federal order has no effect on Rashcio’s ruling. In order for the case to be argued fully, there were scheduled day-long hearings which occurred on Dec. 13 and 23, 2022. According to The Observer, “Raschio ruled on Jan. 3 that the state cannot implement the additional background check requirement.” 

This particular provision of Measure 114, if implemented, could have closed the Charleston Loophole, which The Oregonian defined as “a provision in federal law that allows a firearms dealer to move ahead with a sale after three days even if the background check is not yet completed.” This loophole enabled the Mother Emmanuel mass shooting of Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 to occur.  

As of Jan. 4 in Harney County, “Measure 114 is blocked from taking effect in its entirety until he rules on the constitutionality of each individual provision after a full trial,” as stated by The Observer.

The outcome of Measure 114 is still unsure for many citizens on both sides of the issue, as its legal standings and final application remain partially unknown. The positive impact fully enforcing Measure 114 can have on communities affected by gun violence is immense. Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran’s opinion is that “[Oregon is] finally doing something to limit the danger,” not only just for the community but specifically for the younger generation, who have already experienced so much gun violence. 

As of Jan. 7, 2022, Portland Public School District (PPS) has had four shootings outside of high school campuses this school year. Many concerned citizens believe that Measure 114 will protect students and promote safety in PPS and in all school districts in Oregon. As Measure 114 goes to higher courts and faces more legal battles, hope still persists for those who believe 114 is what Oregon needs to reduce gun violence in our communities.

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