New poll shows outcome of Oregon gun control referendum still in doubt

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

With Oregon being one of the most liberal states in the country, you’d think that a ballot referendum imposing a host of new gun control laws would be an enormously popular idea, but a new poll of likely voters in the state shows that anti-gun activists shouldn’t feel confident in a victory. In fact, support for the new measures is at just 51% with 39% opposed and another 10% still undecided.

According to the new Oregonian/OregonLive poll, the greatest support for the new restrictions is found exactly where you’d expect it.

Support is stronger among voters in the Portland area, which includes Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, where 63% of respondents said they would vote yes, compared with 49% of respondents in the Willamette Valley and 37% elsewhere in the state.

If rural voter turnout in Oregon is higher than usual, it could sink the referendum and keep the state’s current laws in place. Several county sheriffs have been warning about the consequences of Measure 114 (intended and otherwise), particularly in rural parts of the state where law enforcement could take a huge financial hit thanks to the unfunded mandates in the ballot measure. A financial impact statement on Measure 114 signed by Oregon’s secretary of state and state treasurer found that the “measure is anticipated to generate up to $23.5 million in additional revenues for state government entities. These revenues would be generated from OSP fingerprint background check fees, FBI background check fees, and judicial filing fees,” but the cost of enforcing the new gun laws would be far higher.

The financial impact of the initiative is anticipated to result in an expenditure increase of up to $21.1 million for state government during the 2023-25 biennium. This increase is based on two primary factors: 1) the Department of State Police (OSP) will require additional staffing and resources to support background checks for individuals seeking permits to purchase firearms under the measure; and 2) the Oregon Judicial Department may realize additional cases in circuit courts and the Court of Appeals related to appeals of permit denials and new crimes established by the measure. Approximately $2.3 million is anticipated as one-time expense.

… For local government, the financial impact of the initiative is anticipated to result in expenditures of up to $51.2 million in the first year of implementation and up to $47.5 million in subsequent years to process initial permit-to-purchase applications. The anticipated revenue to local government is projected at up to $19.5 million annually based on an estimated 300,000 applications per year.

So, local police departments and county sheriffs will be forced to deal with a $30-million shortfall in the first year of implementation, and can expect to run in the red to the tune of $28-million or so every year thereafter. It’s not quite defunding the police, but saddling them with unfunded mandates in essence accomplishes the same goal. Instead of focusing on violent crime, departments will be wasting personnel and a large part of their budgets to enforce a host of unconstitutional and unnecessary laws, starting with a new permit to purchase a firearm.

In order to obtain a permit to purchase under Measure 114, law abiding citizens would undergo a background check and law enforcement agencies could delay approval indefinitely, for any reason. This is both arbitrary and capricious. Measure 114 would also require law abiding citizens to receive training from underfunded and understaffed law enforcement agencies that are not obligated to provide training. Citizens would be required to receive live-fire training from law enforcement agencies. Most law enforcement agencies don’t own their own ranges, making it an uphill climb for citizens to receive live-fire training. For various liability reasons, most private ranges would not allow such training to take place after speaking with some of them. Finally, the proposed magazine limit is constitutionally suspect, as SCOTUS recently vacated the ruling upholding California’s magazine ban.

Crime in Oregon is a genuine problem, and it’s absolutely out of control in cities like Portland, but the answer isn’t to target legal gun owners and subject them to a maze of red tape and bureaucratic B.S. before they can exercise a constitutionally-protected right. Law enforcement needs to be focused on the actual perpetrators of violence, but Measure 114 will inhibit many agencies from doing so effectively.

The good news is that even if this ballot measure passes, it’s certain to face a court challenge. Still, it’s far better to stop a bad idea from becoming a bad law in the first place rather than fighting to remove a bad law from the books, and Oregon gun owners need to be engaged and evangelical in their opposition to Measure 114. There’s a real chance to defeat these unconstitutional proposals at the ballot box, but it’s going to take a united front of Second Amendment supporters and a lot of outreach to non-gun owners who are probably unaware of the unfunded mandates and the impact they’ll have on their own safety.