Gun control activists in Oregon have collected enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot this fall that would impose several new restrictions on law-abiding gun owners including a new permit-to-purchase mandate and a ban on the sale, possession, and use of ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds.
These measures are certain to be challenged in court if they’re approved by voters in November, but even those Oregonians who aren’t particularly bothered by infringing on anyone’s constitutionally-protected rights might be concerned about the cost of enforcing these proposed laws, especially after hearing an analysis of the financial impact provided by Oregon’s Secretary of State.
A committee involving the Secretary of State’s Office and legislative analysts determined it would cost the state over $23 million, but generate about the same amount in revenue. The measure would cost local governments up to $31 million in its first year.
The measure would require expenditures but would also bring in money.
Cost to state government:
- About $2 million in one-time expenses and $21 million between 2023-25 to provide additional staff and resources for Oregon State Police for background checks and issuing permits. The Oregon Judicial Department would likely have increased costs and cases related to new crimes established by the law and among people appealing permit denials.
Revenue for state government:
- Up to $23.5 million for the state from fees for fingerprinting, FBI background checks and judicial filings.
Cost to local government:
- More than $51 million in the first year to process an estimated 300,000 permit applications a year.
- More than $47 million in subsequent years to process permits.
Revenue for local government:
- Nearly $20 million per year in application fees.
Based on the state’s own analysis, if IP 17 is approved, local governments are going to be hit with more than $30-million dollars in unfunded mandates in just the first year, and a continued deficit of more than $27-million every year after that.
For what? A magazine ban that’s almost certain to be thrown out because of constitutional issues and a “permit to purchase” law that’s also likely to be tossed on constitutional grounds and would serve no public safety benefit whatsoever even if it is upheld.
Note as well that the analysis projects “up to $23.5 million” in fees for the state, which will supposedly offset the $23-million in state spending to enforce the new provisions over the next couple of years. It’s entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that the state won’t generate nearly as much money from their new mandates as they’re projecting, which would mean an even bigger burden for taxpayers across the state.
This isn’t an insubstantial amount of money, particularly for smaller towns and rural counties. There are slightly less than 300 counties, cities, and towns that would be the issuing authority for these permits to purchase, so the burden for each of them individually could easily run into the six figures. Since these political subdivisions can’t operate with deficit spending, passage of IP 17 is going to likely lead to either budget cuts in public safety or raising local taxes in order to pay for the unnecessary and unconstitutional gun control provisions.
Maybe that will be a feature and not a bug for progressives in Oregon, but I’m guessing that many Oregonians will be less than enthusiastic about putting these gun laws on the books if it means fewer officers patrolling their communities or paying more in taxes and fees. Of course, it’s going to be up to Second Amendment supporters and gun owners to point out the financial cost of IP17, because the gun control activists who put their bad ideas on the ballot are sure to downplay or ignore the financial hit to come if their proposals become law.
In fact, there’s a decent chance that the state is going to try to massage these numbers to make them look better. This afternoon the state will be holding an online public comment period on the financial impact of the ballot measure (you can register to attend here), and officials are expected to “reconsider changes to the financial impact statements,” with any changes to the bottom line being released by the Secretary of State before August 10th.
I don’t see how they’re going to be able to magically erase the $30-million deficit that they’ve projected, but I’m confident that the anti-gun activists responsible for the ballot initiative are going to be lobbying hard for the state to do just that. They might even be able to get away with fudging the numbers in their favor, but it’s clear that IP 17 will come with a cost; not only to the financial bottom line of local communities, but (more importantly) to the exercise of a fundamental right.