Gun control activists fall flat in debate over Oregon ballot measure

Gun control activists fall flat in debate over Oregon ballot measure
(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

Over the past few months Cam has reported on several aspects of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 114. There’s been little outward support; actually there’s been opposition from several Democrats in leadership positions to this measure, several of Oregon’s sheriffs oppose 114, and polling shows there’s only about 51% that support the proposal at best. But what about talking points? A recent debate that occurred where two proponents weighed in on the measure, and one opponent spoke against it, showed that logic is clearly not on the side of those in favor of it.

The measure is being presented as being anti-crime and to aid in suicide prevention, however none of the proposals do anything to meet those alleged goals. What does Ballot Measure 114 support?

Under the guise of the “Reduction of Gun Violence Act,” Ballot Measure 114 is an unconstitutional, anti-gun initiative package that includes a state-run government registry of gun owners’ personal information and firearms, requires a permit to purchase a firearm, imposes an indefinite delay on background checks, and bans any magazine with over a 10-round capacity.

Ballot Measure 114 is an unconstitutional BAN on ammo magazines with more than 10-rounds.

Ballot Measure 114 would require government permission to exercise your Second Amendment constitutional rights.

Ballot Measure 114 would allow your personal information to be added to a government registry.

Ballot Measure 114 will require a permit-to-purchase or transfer any firearm in the future.

Law enforcement agencies are not required to offer the training course, but they are the only ones who may offer the course.

Applicants cannot obtain a permit without first passing a law enforcement firearms training course.

First-time firearm owners may find it impossible to obtain a permit.

Fox News 12 Oregon televised a debate which allowed the parties to answer several questions about the Ballot Measure. Speaking in favor of the measure were Miles Pendleton, the president of the Eugene/Springfield branch of the NAACP, and John Hummel, the District Attorney for Deschutes County. In opposition of the measure was Kevin Starrett, the Director of Oregon Firearms Federation. The debate was moderated by Pete Ferryman, a news anchor at Fox 12.

The debate is worth watching in full. Starrett, in a calculated and well thought out manner, answered all the questions that were asked of him, and pretty much eviscerated every argument in support of this measure. Starrett brought the actual facts, read directly from the measure or cited studies with exact quotes, and did not lean on conjecture.

In support of the measure, Pendleton got schooled. This probably would have been a good one for him to sit out, and leaves me wondering why “they” put someone so ill prepared to speak on the topic. He failed to communicate why the measure is “good”.  As for Hummel, the District Attorney, there were several times he flat out did not answer the questions and just delivered sound bites. Pendleton also can be accused of throwing around the ten dollar buzzwords like “equity” or “cognitive dissonance”, trying to inject a progressive spin on everything, without saying anything of substance about the actual content of the proposed law.

In Pendleton’s two minute introductory talk, he went right after some of the perennial talking points of the anti-civil liberty groups.

I’d also like to bring attention to the fact that well, we rightly and correctly view gun violence as a health sector issue. It certainly prevails beyond those contexts as well. When we think about gun violence is also an economic issue. It is an educational related issue, and it’s certainly a families and community related issue as well.

The weasel words are strong with this young one. We do need to make note of the repeated use of the “gun violence” rhetoric, especially when we were given the statistics that the moderator, Pete Ferryman, gave us when asking a question about suicide.

In Oregon 81% of gun deaths are suicides, accounting for approximately 440 lives lost each year, thats according to a recent study, supporters of measure 114 say that it would help prevent suicides by creating some additional space and time before someone in crisis might be able to access a gun. Given those numbers doesn’t creating more space and time make sense?

Starrett cuts right to some facts about the demographics most likely to take their own lives by suicide by firearm.

Now, the biggest demographic for people committing suicide in Oregon are older white rural men. These are the people most likely to already have firearms. And suicides a serious problem, with suicide is a mental health issue. And Oregon is very, very good at avoiding mental health issues. And when you look at the other aspects of this measure, which is banning magazines, over 10 rounds, as in my experience, most people who commit suicide have done it with fewer than 10 rounds. So that clearly makes no sense.

The irony of DA Hummel bringing up the suicide prevention powers of 114 several times throughout the debate, besides there being no proof to his claims, is that one of the easiest ways to cause a pause in the population that already owns firearms, is giving them an opportunity to give their guns to a trusted friend. Saying 114 is constructed to mitigate death by suicide by firearm is naive or purposefully misleading.

The concept of cause a pause is an important one and Hummel myopically uses the permitting process as the only way to do so. By slowing down (infringing on rights) the procurement of a firearm to separate the thought of suidice, Hummel claims that’s the most effective way to keep a person from having the ability to complete the act. There’s more than one way to cause a pause, such as a recommendation Walk The Talk America makes, that of putting a picture or symbol of something important to you on your gun box, or safe. Or, offsite storage possibilities is another option, like the program championed by Hold My Guns.

Under current Oregon law, it’s prohibited to allow someone that’s not a family member, excepting under some impossible to prove emergency provisions, to store a firearm for someone else. If the authors of this resolution were interested in servicing the section of the population most vulnerable to death by suicide by firearm, they’d have added to the text ways people can allow friends to hold onto their firearms for them without any burden or strings attached. No, the answer is to create a time delay between application for permit and purchase.

One of the more disgraceful parleys back and forth between Pendleton and Starrett occurred when Pendleton accused Starrett of making racist insinuations. Pendleton holding a leadership role in the NAACP, as well as being a Black man, really embarrassed himself in my opinion (if he’s self aware enough to realize it), as we quickly get to what Starrett meant when he used the word “predators”.

Starrett: Maybe Mr. Hummel doesn’t have a TV. But you know, I’ve watched years of people being dragged out of their cars by predators in Portland and beaten, they saying that there’s…this is related to the pandemic, no, this is related to the inability of the police to respond to violent crime, which is taking place on our streets all the time, because of the policies that that people like Mr. Hummel proposed and recommend. There’s just no denying it, you know, that the crime in our cities has skyrocketed. And to suggest that this has to do with a passing illness simply makes no sense. And I’ll leave that up to your audience to decide if they think what he’s saying is in any way defensible.

Ferryman: Go ahead Mr. Pendleton.

Pendleton: I just have to point out here, you know, this is the same super predator language and rhetoric we saw first take root in the 70s and 80s, that instigated and made the assumption of mass incarceration. The United States society, the same super predator rush that we have now [is] clearly connected, that was based and rooted in inequity and in prejudice and bigotry intentionally. So I really, really do push back and take affront to that rhetoric about describing people as predators and all that nature. I mean, it is clearly an overtly prejudiced nature, it is filled with implicit bias. And I want the viewers at home just to be aware of that and to please do make that connection because of this the same rhetoric that we have seen or saw take root in the 70s and the 80s that were used as a catalyst to instigate mass incarceration. That was clearly a racist, racist ploy.

Starrett: The predators in Portland are white, Miles. So, let’s knock off the racist garbage. Okay? The first person to use the term was Hillary Clinton, to my knowledge. The people I’m referring to are not minorities, they’re white people. So, to accuse me of racism is a pretty cheap shot. And obviously a pretty weak argument.

It’s obvious that Pendleton, and by extension we can assume the NAACP, are bending a knee to establishment Democrats that wish to continue to push a disarmament narrative. What’s important to note is that Pendleton does not speak for all minorities, and as a matter of fact, some completely disagree with his assertion. Take for example the stance from a group named Imagine Black.

Measure 114 gives local law enforcement the power to create permitting processes and sole discretionary power, using unclear criteria, to determine who is and is not a public threat.

Measure 114 feels good on the surface but will disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, communities of color, queer, and marginalized communities.

Imagine Black is encouraging voters to not sacrifice Black, Indigenous and other communities of color, and queer/LGBTQIA+ communities by providing discretionary power to the very officers with a continual history of targeting Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.

Proponents of this measure are making unsubstantiated claims that this will reduce gun violence, specifically veteran suicide and gang violence.

This measure does not address the overwhelming evidence that magazine bans have significant disproportionate legal consequences for Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. Believe the evidence produced by states like Massachusetts who have already implemented magazine bans and have seen the stark failure in the policing of this law. (Source: Racial Disparities in the Massachusetts Criminal System. The Criminal Justice Policy Program, Harvard Law School 2020)

Measure 114 fails to offer wrap-around services to address for either veteran suicide or gang violence.

Measure 114 fails to set criteria to base certifications on, including DEI standards, focusing on diversifying the instructor pool.

Measure 114 fails to address that mass shootings and other firearm deaths primarily result from the root causes of suicidality and ideological extremism (e.g., white supremacy, antisemitism, misogyny, etc.).

Instead of trying to stick to the facts, Pendleton opted to take cheap shots at his opponent, and while what he said is a nice sound bite if clipped out into a social media reel of some sort, it’s fake, phony, and false. Like most from his base, when backed into a corner he defaulted to using “racist” as a lifeboat to save his own faulty argumentation, when in reality he just made himself look foolish. Or, he could have used the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to word salad his way out of the quagmire, which is so 2020 Miles.

After watching this debate, I took the opportunity to discuss 114 with a self-described Democrat from Portland. HK Kahng is a Precinct Committee Person from Oregon House District 45, Multnomah County Democrats, and is a member of the Liberal Gun Club. HK Kahng wrote “to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission [(OCJC)] regarding the effect of this measure on the BIPOC and other marginalized communities” in opposition to this measure. Kahng noted his testimony was seemingly dismissed.

Kahng also made the same connection I did of establishment Democrats hanging onto the disarmament narrative saying,”It’s my understanding that one Black state legislator broke ranks with the state Democrats to request the impact statement from the OCJC. There are some rumors of fallout from that, and but it’s complete hearsay meandering into ‘airing dirty laundry’ territory. I personally am inclined to believe them.”

Kahng further expanded on the concerns that some Democrats have with 114 and how some are not in support of it:

The Democratic Party of Oregon and the Multnomah County Democrats have both debated motions presented by each organization’s Central Committee members to endorse Measure 114. And both organizations declined to support the measure, as a 2/3 supermajority could not be reached.

On its face, any gun control measure would likely have the overwhelming support of Democrats; however, there are substantial and unaddressed concerns regarding racial equity and police overreach that has some party members thinking that the proposed route to the destination of gun violence reduction has that proverbial bus running all over BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities.

Imagine Black issued a very succinct, and powerful set of arguments against 114 from the perspective of those communities [as cited above], and I think it’s those questions of fairness and justice that have kept the state and Multnomah Democrats from supporting this measure.

In part of Starrett’s closing remarks at the end of the debate he said, “If you believe no one except the police should have the right to protect themselves, this ballot measure is for you. But no matter how you feel about the Second Amendment and the right to protect yourself and your loved ones, you should know what actually is in this measure.” Starrett finished strong and said: 

Meanwhile, this measure creates a whole new class of victimless crimes but contains not a single word by holding people accountable if they do commit crimes. At a time when police [are] simply not responding and Oregonians are at the mercy of vicious predators, 114 guarantees they’ll be defenseless, all while having zero effect on skyrocketing crime.

The arguments in support of this measure have been weak, while the arguments against it are rather strong. Aside from the fact that none of 114 would hold up to a history, text, tradition scrutiny as mandated by NYSRPA v. Bruen, none of the proposals make any actual sense, common or otherwise.

I reached out to Starrett after listening to his stunning debate answers and asked him for his 30 seconds on the measure. This is what he had to say about 114:

Mz 114 is a fundamentally racist measure designed to prevent all future sales of firearms and end youth shotgun competition. It’s opposed by the very police who are supposed to administer it and it exposes the most vulnerable Oregonians to abuse and doxing. It’s clearly unconstitutional and the cost to Oregonians in lost liberty and property is impossible to calculate.

If you live in Oregon, there’s really only one answer to this quandary, and that’s a “no” vote for Ballot Measure 114. If you’re looking for more information on 114 that’s not been covered here, the site http://stop114.com/ and NRA’s write up on 114 both have important facts to take in.

If you’re interested in taking in the debate in full, it can be watched in the embed below or by clicking HERE. The sharing of this debate and information is important, as the full scope of the flaccid argumentation in support of this measure cannot be fully embraced without listening to the ineffectual stuttering, weasel words, and in my opinion lies from those who support it. Send it to your fence sitter friends, contacts, family members, colleagues, etc.