Oregon Supreme Court allows TRO blocking Measure 114 to stand... for now

Oregon Supreme Court allows TRO blocking Measure 114 to stand... for now
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Oregon gun owners are waking up to good news today. December 8th was supposed to be the day that Measure 114 took effect; banning the sale and possession (in many cases) of “large capacity” magazines and imposing a “permit-to-purchase” scheme on all gun sales in the state. On Monday afternoon, a federal judge denied a request to block the law from being enforced, though she did pause enforcement of the permit-to-purchase mandate for a month to give the state time to actually implement the system.

Tuesday morning, however, a judge in Harney County, Oregon did impose a temporary restraining order against all aspects of Measure 114, siding with plaintiffs who had sued in the circuit court alleging that Measure 114 violated their right to keep and bear arms under the state’s constitution. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum vowed to appeal directly to the Oregon Supreme Court, and on Wednesday afternoon submitted her request to the justices.

Almost as soon as her request arrived on their doorstep, however, the justices declined to intervene and overturn Judge Robert S. Raschio’s TRO.

At 4:52 p.m, state Supreme Court Presiding Justice Martha L. Walters issued a two-paragraph decision, denying the state attorney general’s petition to intervene to throw out the county judge’s temporary restraining order.

Koch, the assistant attorney general, had urged the state Supreme Court to issue what’s called a “peremptory writ of mandamus,” directing the Harney Circuit Court to throw out its temporary restraining order. If not, he offered an alternative, suggesting the state Supreme Court put an immediate hold on that restraining order and direct the Harney County judge to either dismiss it or show why there’s cause not to do so.

Walters, on behalf of the state Supreme Court, denied both steps.

The state’s high court denied the attorney general’s petition to intervene, and said the attorney general’s motion to put a hold on Raschio’s order therefore was dismissed as “moot.”

The attorney general unsuccessfully argued that the Harney County judge overstepped his authority by temporarily blocking all provisions of the gun control measure, even though the Gun Owners of America and other plaintiffs in the case didn’t challenge all of the regulations, such as the requirement that background checks be completed before a gun is sold or transferred.

This is unquestionably good news for Oregon gun owners, though it’s far from the last word in the legal fight over Measure 114. Next week Raschio will hold another hearing on plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against enforcing Measure 114 throughout the duration of the court battle, and attorneys for Gun Owners of America and the two Harney County residents who are parties to the lawsuit will be back in court arguing for a more permanent halt to the gun control scheme.

Attorney Tyler D. Smith, the lawyer for Gun Owners of America and two Harney County gun owners, said Wednesday night he believes the state Supreme Court acted appropriately.

He argued in court papers that the measure equated to a “functional ban” on dozens, if not thousands of popular firearms that come from manufacturers with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. He also argued that the permit-to-purchase scheme would extract “a hefty fee, paid to the government, merely to obtain the state’s permission to exercise an enumerated right.” The estimated fee was to be $65.

In a filing opposing the state attorney general’s petition, Smith called the measure “poorly conceived and badly drafted,” with no historical precedent in Oregon or elsewhere.

“In spite of this,” Smith wrote, the state’s attorney general and governor “ask this Court to decide – in a period of fewer than eight hours – to overrule a trial court’s factual findings and legal conclusions, altering a status quo that has existed for more than 163 years.”

It’s an argument that apparently had some sway with the court, which is fantastic (and surprising) to see. Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters can breathe a small sigh of relief today, and will hopefully have even more to celebrate after Judge Raschio issues his decision on a request for an injunction just a few days from now.