Legal pile-on: Anti-gun Measure 114 faces court hearing and new lawsuit

Legal pile-on: Anti-gun Measure 114 faces court hearing and new lawsuit
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The temperatures may be falling, but the legal fight over Oregon’s newest gun control is heating up. With less than a week to go before Measure 114 is set to take effect, U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut (appointed to the bench by Donald Trump in 2019) will hold an emergency hearing today on a request for an injunction blocking the ballot measure’s magazine ban and “permit-to-purchase” law from being enforced starting on December 8th. Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with the NRA, its Oregon affiliate, and several individual plaintiffs, have filed the third legal challenge to the new laws.

Today’s court hearing involves the first lawsuit filed against Measure 114; litigation brought by the Oregon Firearms Federation, a FFL, and three county sheriffs that focuses mainly on the magazine ban aspect of the ballot measure. Still, the lawsuit seeks an injunction against Measure 114 as a whole, and the plaintiffs are warning that if Measure 114 is enforced starting next week, it could bring all gun sales in the state to a screeching halt since the permit-to-purchase system isn’t ready to be rolled out.

The new plaintiffs are Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen and Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe. Richard Haden, who owns Garner’s Sporting Goods in Pendleton, has also joined the suit.

In court documents, the attorney for Haden says he fears he would violate the law on a daily basis by keeping magazines with over 10 rounds for self-defense. The documents echo similar concerns for Sheriffs Wolfe and Bowen.

The lawsuit states there has been a 500% surge in sales of guns since the measure passed, and that there is a massive backlog for approval as the Oregon State Police attempt to process 27,000 background checks.

The OSP has already stated that any pending background checks on gun purchases that are in place on December 8th will have to use the new permit-to-purchase system, so it’s entirely possible that, unless Measure 114’s enforcement is halted, many of those 27,000 would-be gun owners are going to be left in a legal limbo just like anyone who’ll start their gun-buying process on or after the day the new laws take effect.

That’s actually one of the arguments raised in the new lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and several individual plaintiffs, though the suit also argues that even after the permit-to-purchase system is set up it will still cause “severe and unprecedented burdens” on law-abiding citizens who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The latest suit blasts the state for trying to impose a new permit application process to buy a gun before all the details for an application process are in place and amid lingering questions about what agencies will accept the applications and what funding and staffing are needed to support the program.

It also echoes the prior lawsuits, which argue the measure violates the right to due process and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“One might think that a state bent on imposing such a novel and burdensome permitting regime would at least take the time to make sure it had the infrastructure and resources in place to ensure that it would operate as smoothly as possible,” attorney Shawn M. Lindsay wrote on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Lindsay, a Lake Oswego-based lawyer, filed the new lawsuit, but he’s expected to have help from two of the lawyers responsible for the major gun rights victory in June before the U.S. Supreme Court that set a new legal standard for evaluating Second Amendment claims.

Attorneys Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and Erin E. Murphy, will be applying to practice in Oregon’s district court, the new suit says. They argued the case before the nation’s high court, which in a 6-3 ruling struck down a New York law that placed strict limits on carrying guns outside the home.

In a statement Thursday, Aoibheann Cline, the NRA’s Oregon director, said Measure 114 is “nothing more than an attempt to stifle – if not outright prevent – the purchase of firearms throughout Oregon.”

“Forget that it is scheduled to go into effect before Oregon even certifies the election, but it requires potential gun owners to take a class that has yet to be created, at a cost yet to be determined, so that they can obtain a permit that doesn’t actually give them permission to purchase a firearm,” Cline said.

The stifling will come once the permit-to-purchase system has been set up. From December 8th until whenever that date arrives, however, the outright prevention of gun purchases will be net result of Measure 114. In fact, given the massive delays in processing background checks thanks to the surging demand, you could make the case that the ballot measure is already having a chilling effect on Oregonians’ ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

It’s possible that Judge Immergut will issue a ruling from the bench this afternoon, but it’s much more likely that her decision on whether or not to grant an injunction against some or all of Measure 114’s provisions will come next week. The other two lawsuits could also get a hearing ahead of the measure’s scheduled enactment on December 8th, so it looks like the federal courthouse in Portland is going to be just as busy as Oregon gun stores between now and then.