OR Gun Control Referendum Nears Goal Line; Iowans Approve Gun Rights Amendment

OR Gun Control Referendum Nears Goal Line; Iowans Approve Gun Rights Amendment

Gun rights and gun control advocates were both eyeing two major state gun referendums this week. There may be something for both crowds to cheer about -- as Iowans firmly embraced gun rights, while Oregonians may have approved a strict gun control regime in a vote that's still being tallied.  

In addition to criminalizing possession of a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds, Oregon's "Measure 114" would require a permit to purchase any firearm. To obtain the permit, Oregonians would have to: 

  • Pay a fee that's expected to be $65

  • Be fingerprinted

  • Pass a criminal background check

  • Complete a safety training course 

Gun owners' privacy would be violated:

"State police would be required to maintain an electronically searchable, publicly available database of all permit applications," reported The Epoch Times.

With 72% of the vote counted as this article is written, "Yes" is leading 50.8% to 49.2%. Though most outlets have not indicated a final result, The Oregonian raced to declare the measure's adoption on Election Night, on the basis that most of the votes left to be counted are from areas favoring the referendum. 

"Sadly, this blatant assault on the Second Amendment rights of honest citizens narrowly passed -- restrictions that include mandatory training, background checks, fingerprinting, and permitting. All of these infringements are completely contrary to the Supreme Court's Bruen precedent, and ultimately, will be overturned." Erich Pratt Senior VP, GOA.

In social media posts on Wednesday, at least two Oregon sheriffs said they'll defy the measure, either in whole or part: 

  • "This is an infringement on our constitutional rights and will not be enforced by my office!" said Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen in a Facebook post. "Hear this! When it comes to our constitutional rights I’ll fight to the death to defend them. No matter what crazy law comes out of Salem!"

  • "I want to send a clear message to Linn County residents that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is NOT going to be enforcing magazine capacity limits," said Sheriff Michelle Duncan.  

Beyond its imposition of barriers to the exercise of a fundamental human right, the referendum has a Catch-22 built into it, according to Oregon trial attorney Leonard Williamson. 

“In order to obtain the permit, an applicant would have to show up with a firearm to demonstrate the ability to load, fire, unload, and store the firearm,” Williamson told The Epoch Times. “But you can’t get a firearm without the permit. And under Oregon’s highly restrictive gun storage laws, no one can legally loan a firearm to another. That creates an impassable barrier.”

There's another built-in problem: 

"Firearms dealers will not be able to sell a firearm to anyone without a permit; since the permit system does not exist, all legal firearms sales in the State of Oregon will stop until a permit system is established," says Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber, who opposed the measure.

He anticipates that, upon a challenge, a federal judge will stay the measure's enforcement until a permitting process is put in place. 

On the plus side, the magazine size-restriction has an exception for "current owners/inheritors," which would seem to shoot a big hole in its enforceability. Sheriff Kaber nonetheless recommends documenting current possession of such magazines, such as with a dated photo. 

The Firearms Policy Coalition, a frequent litigator against gun control measures, has already promised to challenge Oregon's scheme:  

The news from the Hawkeye State is much cheerier. Until now, Iowa has been one of only six of states without a constitutional provision safeguarding gun rights. That's changing, as Iowans approved a constitutional amendment by a lopsided 65% to 35% vote. 

Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws said "the potential consequences of this amendment’s passage...will be far reaching and dire."  

Judge for yourself -- here's the text of the amendment: 

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

The text initially echoes the operative part of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. With the second sentence, it pointedly counters the flawed notion that gun rights are necessarily limited to current militia service.

The third sentence explicitly selects the legal standard by which Iowa courts should evaluate challenges to gun control measures. "Strict scrutiny" is the highest standard of review, requiring that a given law be narrowly tailored to further "a compelling governmental interest." 

"This is a very high standard,” Iowa Sen. Brad Zaun said when the amendment was advanced by the legislature in 2018. "What this bill is about - let's put the cards on the table - is judicial activism.”

Thanks to this summer's ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Iowa's strict scrutiny provision may be a little redundant. However, like a gun, it's better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it. 

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