When they enter the gun store this holiday season, Oregonians looking to buy a firearm are in for a big surprise. When a new ballot initiative takes effect early next month, law enforcement officials are stating to local news outlets that they anticipate all gun sales in the state to be frozen. However, these worries have already sparked a buying frenzy out of panic, which has clogged the system so severely that some sources claim there is already a de facto ban on guns in place.
According to Larry Keane, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “people in Oregon are concerned, to put it mildly.” I have no other words to use besides panicked.
Ballot Measure 114, which was recently passed and takes effect on December 8, is the cause of this panic. The initiative, which was marketed as a way to reduce gun violence, passed on November 8 by the thinnest of margins, with 50.7 percent of state voters in favor and 49.3 percent against. A map of the state shows that 30 of the state’s 36 counties—the vast majority—voted against the proposal, but the urban voting bloc that predominates in the liberal counties of the state was significant enough to ensure its passage.
Three significant rule changes are part of the ballot initiative. It mandates stricter guidelines for safety training, fingerprinting, and the background check that can hold more than 10 rounds. The Permit-to-Purchase program was also started, which mandates that anyone who wants to buy a firearm first obtain a state-issued permit.
The state’s current lack of readiness to grant these permits complicates matters. An OSP spokesperson said last week that the department “is working diligently to ensure that the new Permit to Purchase program will be operational by December 8” as they oversaw the implementation of the permit system. However, proponents of gun rights claim that until this occurs, the future is at best uncertain.
Unsurprisingly, all of this ambiguity has sparked a rampant gun buying spree. According to OSP data, the state was processing about 850 background checks for gun purchases every day prior to the midterm elections on November 8. According to KGW-8 News, that number has since risen to about 4,500 background checks per day, creating a crippling backlog.
The holidays are the most important time of the year for most retailers, so this could not have come at a worse time, according to gun store owners. Mazama Sporting Goods owner Adam Braatz says some customers are having to wait four to six weeks for a background check to complete due to the current backlog. He claims that over 24,000 people in Oregon are currently waiting in line for a background check and that many businesses, including his own store, are concerned they will go out of business before the state implements its permitting system.
The Oregon Firearms Federation and Adam Johnson, the owner of a gun store in Keizer, have already filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown and State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. According to the Oregon Capital Chronicle, the Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey joined that lawsuit, which mainly challenges the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
Several sheriffs, including Lohrey, have declared they will not enforce Measure 114 because they believe it to be unconstitutional.
Keane says the NSSF plans to file a lawsuit as soon as next week challenging the measure on Second Amendment grounds. He doesn’t expect legislators to repeal the measure but hopes that the state will push back the effective date at least until the Permit-to-Purchase system is in place.