Backers of a gun control proposal aimed for November’s ballot got some unexpected help from the Oregon Supreme Court on Monday.
The proposal, Initiative Petition 44, has less than three weeks to collect and submit more than 88,000 valid signatures. The petition had been tied up after opponents with the National Rifle Association, Oregon Firearms Federation and other groups challenged its ballot language.
No longer. In a surprise move, the Supreme Court announced it wouldn’t entertain those challenges, which it said were “not well taken.” The court instead certified ballot language drafted by the Oregon Department of Justice.
That means supporters can begin collecting signatures immediately. They had been bracing for a weeks-long delay that likely would have doomed their chances of gathering enough signatures by the July 6 deadline.
Challengers Keely Hopkins, state director for the National Rifle Association, and Paul Donheffner, legislative committee chair for the Oregon Hunters’ Association, had expressed concerns about regulating how gun owners store their weapons.
“... IP 44 dictates particular storage and transfer requirements while imposing conditions that unduly burden the ability of law-abiding citizens to use arms for self-defense and other lawful purposes,” their petition stated. “Safety and storage is a matter of personal responsibility and subject to each individual’s particular circumstances and needs.”
Opponents of the ballot title for IP 44 also claimed the caption, as written, focused on the locking requirement and did not adequately describe the penalties for failing to comply.
Shortly after the announcement Monday, supporters of IP 44 were still deciding how to react.
“We thank the court for their quick action, affirming the attorney general correctly titled our measure,” said Jake Weigler, a campaign spokesman. “We are disappointed the gun lobby attempted to run out most of the clock to keep voters from considering this measure. We are working quickly to determine if we see a path to qualify it for the ballot.”
Dubbed “Oregonians for Safe Gun Storage and Reporting Lost/Stolen Firearms,” IP 44 would force gun owners to secure their weapons with trigger locks or other mechanisms when they aren’t in use or being carried. Violators of the law could face fines of up to $2,000 and would be liable for any injury caused by an unlawfully unlocked weapon, excluding self-defense situations.
It would also require them to report if one of their guns is stolen or lost within 24 hours of learning of the theft or loss.
Failure to comply with those requirements would be considered a violation, not a crime.
The petition is one of two gun-control proposals that could come before Oregon voters in November. The other, IP 43, would place heavy restrictions on military-style semi-automatic weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Pro-gun groups have also appealed ballot language for that petition to the Oregon Supreme Court. The court could rule as early as this week.
— The EO Media/Pamplin Media Capital Bureau contributed to this report.