Portland's crime woes won't be solved by Measure 114

Portland's crime woes won't be solved by Measure 114
AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus

Portland residents recently provided the winning margin for Measure 114, a gun control measure that would impose a ban on “large capacity” magazines and establish a permit-to-purchase system that all legal gun owners would have to go through in order to exercise their right to simply keep a gun in their home. The city’s progressive politics was undoubtably the major factor in the 75% approval that Measure 114 received in Multnomah County, but the crime spike in Portland also likely played a role. Both violent and property crime have gotten worse over the past couple of years, and it doesn’t surprise me that some naive residents would cling to the comforting premise that adding a couple of new, non-violent possessory offenses to the books will stop the bleeding in the city.

It’s not that easy, of course. There’s a growing confidence among prolific offenders in the city, who seem to believe (with some justification) that there are few if any consequences for their criminal behavior. As Portland police identified the city’s 93rd homicide victim of the year, for example, a business owner just across the river from the heart of the Old Town neighborhood announced she’s closing up shop for good because of the repeated number of break-ins at her store. Over the past 18 months Rains PDX has been targeted by burglars no less than 15 times, and Marcy Landolfo has finally given up.

“It’s just too much with the losses that are not covered by insurance, the damages, everything. It’s just not sustainable,” Landolfo said.

KATU asked why Landolfo decided to close now, instead of keeping doors open through the holiday shopping season.

“The products that are being targeted are the very expensive winter products and I just felt like the minute I get those in the store they’re going to get stolen,” she said.

Landolfo said she’s worried about her employees, and no longer sees this location as a feasible business model.

“The problem is, as small businesses, we cannot sustain those types of losses and stay in business. I won’t even go into the numbers of how much has been out of pocket,” she said.

When Rains was broken into in late October, KATU reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office.

His team said they’re working to increase funding for business repair grants through Prosper Portland. Landolfo said that’s not enough.

“Paying for glass that’s great, but that is so surface and does nothing for the root cause of the problem, so it’s never going to change,” she said.

Well, don’t be too sure about that. Things could change, but for the worse. On Friday, a federal judge in Oregon will hold a hearing on a request to block Measure 114 from taking effect on December 8th. If the judge does allow enforcement of the law to proceed, it could put a screeching halt to all legal gun sales, because there’s no guarantee that the permit-to-purchase system will be anywhere close to operational.

Less than two weeks remain for Oregon officials to hammer out a complex permitting regime for firearm ownership under Measure 114, and that could put the state in a constitutionally precarious spot.

Some gun rights advocates worry that if a permit mandate takes effect before a process is in place to acquire those permits, it could halt gun sales in Oregon.

“Net effect is they’re going to shut down all gun stores and basically no one is going to be able to buy a firearm, which is totally in violation of Second Amendment rights,” Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in an interview.

Gottlieb’s organization plans to sue Oregon in federal court hoping to get the voter passed laws thrown out.

The Oregon State Police are responsible for drafting the rules implementing Measure 114, which passed Nov. 8 on a slim margin. Spokesperson Capt. Stephanie Bigman said the state police are not looking to delay the implementation and did not anticipate any pause to gun sales.

In a statement issued Nov. 17, the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association sounded more skeptical, saying it expected all gun sales and transfers to stop when the law goes into effect.

OSSA did not respond to questions asking why its assessment differed from the state police.

A federal firearms licensee, who didn’t want to use his name for fear of retribution against his business, said the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and Oregon State Police have been reaching out to businesses in the state to gauge how many gun safety classes businesses could offer. Completing a safety class will be a required part of getting a permit to purchase a firearm once the law goes into effect.

“They have no idea how to do those classes,” the licensee said. “There is a live fire component. [Oregon State Police] are asking around about giving those to firearms training facilities to do that for them.”

Things have gotten so bad that the backers of Measure 114 are now claiming that the permit system doesn’t actually require live-fire training at all, in the hopes of convincing the public that a disaster isn’t getting ready to unfold.

Liz McKanna, who is with gun regulation advocacy group Lift Every Voice Oregon and worked on the Measure 114 campaign, said the requirement that people demonstrate an ability to shoot a firearm does not necessarily have to be with live ammunition.

“We require hands-on,” she explained. “You could, in fact, just have dry fire practice. It’s simply, shooting a gun…pulling a trigger, knowing what it’s like. It doesn’t have to have live ammunition.”

But, she added, the final rules are up to the state and they could elect to require a live fire component.

Demonstrating an ability to shoot a firearm doesn’t require actually shooting a firearm? What kind of craziness is that? And does the “imaginary ammunition okay” rule also apply to the Measure’s mandate that all permit applicants also demonstrate an ability to load and unload a firearm?

Measure 114 is shaping up to be an absolute disaster, and honestly the best thing for supporters and opponents alike would be the judge putting the law on hold while the case is being litigated. At least then the gun control group could pretend that, if only it were being enforced things would be better. while peaceable citizens wouldn’t be utterly unable to access their Second Amendment rights thanks to the web of bureaucratic red tape enacted by anti-gun activists. I really hope it doesn’t come to that, but I’m not confident that the courts will do the right thing here. Based on the soaring sales figures ahead of December 8th, it looks like there are plenty of Oregonians who are hoping for the best but planning for the worst.