Blue state ballot measure leads to red-hot gun sales

So far, the biggest impact seen from the narrow passage of Oregon’s Measure 114 has been an explosion in the number of residents purchasing firearms ahead of the measure’s “permit-to-purchase” requirement taking effect. Earlier this week Tom Knighton covered the brisk business in guns since last Tuesday’s vote on enacting a magazine ban and a “permit-to-purchase” requirement, but now we’ve got some hard numbers courtesy of the Oregon State Police.

According to the OSP, before Election Day they were seeing about 850 background check requests on firearm transfers every day. Since November 8th, however, the average has been 4,092 per day; a staggering increase of 382% that has also unfortunately led to a backlog in processing those requests that’s even higher than during the height of the Great Gun Run of 2020.

According to FCIS data, the average number of delayed requests was close to zero between 2017 and 2020. That number shot up to about 7,000 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, before dropping back to near-normal numbers in the spring of 2022.

The number of delayed background checks shot up again in July, when it was announced that enough signatures had been collected for the then-proposed gun control measure to qualify for the November ballot. Following the election, the number of delayed background requests has soared to well over 13,000. If OSP is unable to complete a background check within 30 minutes of receiving a request, state law requires the agency to notify the gun dealer and provide an estimate for when the background check is expected to be completed.

OSP said that its FICS unit is working to process the backlogged background checks from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The office is closed twice a year: on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Approximately 63% of the background check requests submitted to the FICS in November have been approved, the agency said.

When gun control legislation is about to become a gun control law it’s common to see a spike in sales, but there’s another factor at play here. While supporters of Measure 114 say the law won’t take effect until the new permit-to-purchase requirements have been written, opponents argue that the language of the ballot measure says something different; the law will take effect 30 days after its passage has been certified. That would put January 15th as the estimated time of enforcement, and it’s doubtful that the Oregon state government will have completed all of the work necessary to put the permitting system in place. What happens when you need a permit to buy a gun and no permits are being issued? Gun sales stop completely.

Some opponents are even arguing that the effective stop-date for gun sales isn’t January 15th, but December 8th, when the passage of Measure 114 is expected to be certified.

In Southern Oregon, Lake County Sheriff Michael Taylor has vowed not to enforce Measure 114 for otherwise law-abiding citizens. He is also encouraging gun buyers to purchase their desired weapons as soon as possible.

“If anyone is planning on purchasing a firearm, better get it done, there will be a huge rush of gun sales in the next couple of weeks as people try to get guns before the measure takes effect,” Taylor said on the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “The number of background checks is already high, but it will skyrocket. Whatever background checks are in the queue on Dec. 8 will simply stop. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing measure 114 unless you are arrested for a crime involving a firearm.”

By my count, that makes Taylor at least the sixth Oregon sheriff to say he has no plans to enforce Measure 114, though I think he should clarify his statement about being “arrested for a crime involving a firearm.” After all, Measure 114 makes it a crime to possess a firearm with a 17-round magazine unless you’re at the range or your home, and it creates a host of new criminal penalties for purchasing (and possessing) a firearm without acquiring a permit beforehand.

As for the increased gun sales, they’re likely to soar even higher as we approach December 8th. If sales do continue after then, I expect a steady and sustained high rate of purchases right up until January 15th.

Lift Every Voice Oregon, the group behind the ballot measure, should consider a name change. I recommend Sell Every Gun in Oregon, since they’re doing a bang-up job of growing the number of firearms and gun owners across the state. And with LEVO aiming for a ban on modern sporting rifles in the upcoming legislative session, it’s not just handguns that are flying off the shelves. Oregonians are buying up every gun they can find in stores before the anti-gunners start grabbing for them.