Oregon gun control measure in trouble?

Supporters of Oregon’s anti-gun ballot initiative have received a late influx of cash from a deep-pocketed donor; a sign that Measure 114 isn’t going to be the slam dunk with voters that gun control activists were hoping for.

The ballot measure would impose a host of new restrictions on those hoping to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, starting with a new “permit-to-purchase” law that would require the completion of firearms training and governmental approval before being able to lawfully take possession of a firearm; something that even the Associated Press declares amounts to a built-in waiting period on the exercise of a fundamental right. The measure would also outlaw the sale of ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, and would require the state police to establish a database chock full of the personal information of gun owners.

The group behind the gun control effort has raised several million dollars to get the ballot initiative over the finish line, including $100,000 from the gun control group Giffords, but more than one-third of its funds have come from a single deep-pocketed out-of-state donor and no, it’s not Michael Bloomberg.

Backers of Measure 114, which would require permits for gun purchases and would limit the capacity of magazines to 10 cartridges, today disclosed a $750,000 contribution from the Seattle philanthropist Connie Ballmer.

Ballmer’s check represents more than one-third of the $1.96 million the Safe Schools, Safe Communities PAC has raised in support of Measure 114. Three PACs opposing the measure have collectively raised $173,000.

The funding for Measure 114, in other words, is anything but a grassroots affair. Instead, gun control groups and wealthy anti-gun activists (Ballmer and her husband have also gifted hundreds of thousands of dollars to gun control initiatives in their home state as well) are behind the push to make it an expensive and time-consuming burden to exercise your right to own a firearm.

With the massive disparity in spending between the pro-and-anti Measure 114 groups, you’d think that the gun control initiative would be cruising to victory, especially in a state as blue as Oregon. There’s only been one public poll of the measure, however, and it found just 51% of surveyed voters said they were in favor. One of the challenges that the anti-gun forces are facing is the fact that there are many progressives who are opposed to the measure because of concerns that a disproportionate number of minorities are going to face criminal charges for the non-violent, possessory “crime” of having a gun without a permit-to-purchase or possessing an illegal “large capacity” magazine.

Charlene McGee recently spent a morning canvassing a neighborhood in northeast Portland. She and her parents emigrated from Liberia. She says that as a child experiencing war, she grasped the danger of guns at a young age. “I remember growing up, my ears just knowing the sounds of different kinds of guns,” she says. “Like AK-47 was the most prevalent.”

Many people she talked to on this day were enthusiastic about the measure, but she worked to persuade at least one dubious voter. “I’m a gun violence perpetrator,” said Lionel Irving. “So I know gun violence too well.” After serving time for manslaughter, Irving started a nonprofit to help people break the cycle of gun violence.

He told McGee he’s concerned the measure could result in harsher punishments for those who carry guns illegally, which he believes would disproportionately impact people of color.

“Look at the skin,” said McGee in response, holding up her own arm alongside his. “I got a 14-year-old,” she told him. “I get what you’re saying. But that’s not what this is.”

I don’t think Measure 114 is intentionally designed to result in disparate outcomes, but I absolutely believe that will be the result regardless of the authors’ intent. In Wake County, North Carolina, for instance, black applicants are denied a permit-to-purchase a handgun almost three times as often as white applicants, and as several public defenders in New York pointed out in their amicus brief in the Bruen case, fully 96% of the people arrested in NYC in 2020 for possession of an unlicensed firearm were black. It’s an argument that progressive gun owners have been hammering in the lead up to Election Day, including the Portland chapter of the Socialist Rifle Association.

There are even opponents within the state’s Democratic party.

Michael Smith is chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon’s gun owners caucus and describes himself as a progressive gun owner. He said he can’t support Measure 114 because of its magazine-capacity ban.

The contention that a ban on large-capacity magazines would force a mass shooter to pause and reload overlooks the fact a shooter could simply carry multiple firearms or magazines, he said. He also believes that any evidence the ban would reduce shootings is inconclusive.

… Graham Parks, a Democratic Party state central committee member and Portland resident who opposes the measure, said Oregon could learn from Massachusetts’ experience, which has had a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds since September 1994. Black people accounted for 29.5% of those arrested for having large-capacity magazines in Massachusetts, though they make up 12.4% of the state’s population, according to a 2020 report by Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program.

As I said on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, I tend to be fairly Eeyore-ish when it comes to election predictions, but I feel pretty confident in stating that Measure 114 isn’t going to pass with the 90% approval that gun control activists claim they have for their “commonsense” criminalizations of the Second Amendment, and there’s a very real chance that Measure 114 won’t be approved at all. With progressives pointing to the disproportionate impact on minorities, sheriffs highlighting the tens of millions of dollars in unfunded mandates for law enforcement, and 2A groups talking about the unconstitutional burden the initiative places on those who want to be law-abiding gun owners, there are legitimate reasons for voters across the political spectrum to say “no” to Measure 114. Opponents of the ballot measure will definitely end up outspent, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be outvoted.