Anti-gun Oregon initiative may have constitutional problems

Anti-gun Oregon initiative may have constitutional problems
Julie Jacobson

The state of Oregon isn’t exactly friendly toward firearms or gun owners. They’ve embraced the gun control hysteria with every fiber of their being.

Like many places, it’s not everywhere in the state. It’s mostly just the urban centers that are driving it. However, the rest of the state is sparsely enough populated that those urban areas drive state politics, which means gun control.

And following a couple of very high-profile mass shootings, folks there are ready to put gun control on the ballot.

Four weeks ago, the interfaith nonprofit Lift Every Voice Oregon had about 300 volunteers and had collected just a quarter of the signatures they needed to put a gun permit law on the ballot this fall. As of Thursday morning, organizers said 1,500 people from Coos Bay to Pendleton have gathered 115,000 signatures – more than they need to qualify.

Joe Paterno, the volunteer field director for the effort, known as Initiative Petition 17, said scores of new volunteers from all across the state signed up after the May mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

“Almost to a person, it’s, ‘I want to do something. I feel the grief, the loss, the pain, and this gives me something concrete that I can do, an action that I can take,’” Paterno said.

He said volunteers came from every major metro area in the state, as well as many smaller towns like Coos Bay, Grants Pass and Pendleton. In addition to gathering signatures, volunteers are organizing to bring petitions from more remote parts of the state to Portland for counting next week, in time for the final deadline of July 8.

Now, I don’t like ballot initiatives. Direct democracy isn’t what our Founding Fathers intended, in part because it’s little more than mob rule. However, I also recognize that I don’t get to make the laws in Oregon.

Yet what I find most interesting about this particular one is just what they’re putting on the ballot.

If passed by voters in November, the new law would require safety training and a completed background check to purchase a gun and would make high-capacity magazines, which hold more bullets than a regular firearm, illegal.

I don’t support mandated safety training prior to exercising your Second Amendment rights, but Bruen sort of left the door open on that to some degree. The same with background checks.

Yet the subject of “high-capacity magazines” is a different matter entirely.

Of course, I should point out that these magazines come standard on most firearms, so how they “hold more bullets than a regular firearm” is beyond me.

As to the subject of magazine bans, we have to look to Bruen for a moment. There, Justice Clarence Thomas set a standard for what gun control laws are constitutional and which aren’t. That means, for this to meet that standard, there needs to be some corresponding tradition of such regulations dating back to the time of the founding.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any law from back then that limits how much ammunition one could carry, own, or use.

And repeating firearms were actually a thing (see: Puckle Gun), so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could have had concerns.

As such, though, Oregon may pass this measure in November, only to see it overturned in a legal challenge.

In fact, this is the crux of one of the cases the Supreme Court just kicked back to the lower court. I just don’t see this one getting a pass because it was a ballot initiative.

What’s funny is that so few in Oregon seem to be questioning whether this initiative would survive a challenge under the new standards laid out by the Court. Then again, what do they care about constitutionality, anyway?