Oregon Measure 114, one of strictest gun control measures in U.S., too close to call

Gun Rights

Oregon voters passed one of the country’s strictest gun control measures, a long-sought goal of a grassroots faith-based campaign.

Partial returns tallied as of 11:15 p.m. showed Measure 114 leading 51% to 49%.

Most of the votes left to be tallied were in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, all favoring or heavily favoring the measure.

The measure will require Oregonians to pay a $65 fee for a permit to buy a gun and would ban the sale or transfer of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

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It also will close the so-called Charleston loophole by requiring state police to complete full background checks on buyers with permits before any gun sale or transfer. Under federal law now, firearms dealers can sell guns without a completed background check if the check takes longer than three business days.

“We began this historic campaign to save lives with faith, and we remain hopeful as we wait for all of the votes to be counted,” said the Rev. Mark Knutson, one of the chief petitioners, speaking earlier in the night to supporters gathered at Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church.

“We thank everyone that helped put Measure 114 on the ballot and supported us every step of the way, gathering signatures, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and turning those precious ballots in,” he said. “We are eternally grateful for your strength and dedication.”

OREGON ELECTION 2022: Live Results Page | Election page

The highest support for the measure was in Multnomah County, with 75% to 25% in favor. The measure led in Washington County 62% to 38% and Clackamas County at 52% to 48%. The measure led in Lane County at 54% to 46% and in Deschutes County at 51% to 50%.

The measure was losing in Marion, Jackson, Linn and Douglas counties.

It drew national attention, gaining support from mass shooting survivors including David Hogg, who became a gun control activist after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and Joshua Friedland, who lost eight friends and classmates in the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg.

Measure 114 supporters await results

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley stopped by the Augustana Lutheran Church on Election Night as supporters of the Measure 114 gun control measure gathered to await results. The Rev. Mark Knutson , one of the chief petitioners, is standing next to Merkley.Courtesy of Taida Horozovic

“We know that throughout U.S. history change rarely comes from the federal government,” Hogg said during the campaign. “Most often it comes from states and local governments, and this is an example of everyday people using their state government and working together to create a safer community to stop this violence before it touches them, too.”

Friedland, now a forestry student seeking his master’s degree at the Yale School of the Environment, said he suffered anxiety and depression and was on a suicide watch for months after the Roseburg carnage. He said he expects the measure could cut down on impulsive suicides because people won’t be able to purchase a gun as quickly as they can now.

The chief petitioners behind the measure — Knutson of Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, the church musical director Marilyn Keller and Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Michael Cahana — awaited the results with other supporters at the church. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., stopped by the church and spoke with supporters in the church basement.

Lift Every Voice Oregon, the interfaith group that crafted the measure, launched shortly after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting four years ago that killed 17 students and staff and injured 17 others. The group ran out of time to collect enough signatures for similar petitions that year. Bills reflecting the initiatives never got a hearing in the state Legislature in 2019 and the pandemic hampered signature-gathering efforts in 2020 and last year.

Days before the election, the backers marched to North Portland’s Dawson Park to urge support. Three people were killed in fatal shootings in or on the edge of the park in the last two years.

“We cannot stand idly by when our neighbor bleeds,” Cahana said. “It’s our attempt to make a difference.”

Oregon joins Washington, D.C., and 14 other states that have enacted similar permit-to-purchase gun laws. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have adopted laws banning large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Under the proposal, anyone who wants to buy a gun will have to obtain a permit, pay the anticipated fee, complete an approved firearms safety course at their own expense, submit a photo ID, be fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check.

Proponents raised $2.4 million during the campaign, with Connie Ballmer, a Seattle philanthropist and University of Oregon alumna, the top contributor, donating $750,000. Ballmer is married to billionaire Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team.

Opponents raised a fraction of that, just over $200,000, and will draw a state penalty for late reporting of a $25,700 donation from a National Rifle Association fund based in Virginia, according to state officials.

Critics, including the Oregon Firearms Federation, the National Rifle Association and the Oregon Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the measure is costly and its unwieldy process will block prospective lawful gun owners

Kevin Starrett, director of the firearms federation, has argued the measure violates the Second Amendment and will be challenged in court. He called it “impossible to comply with” and said it won’t have the desired impact.

Mass shooters will still be able to get their hands on the millions of large-capacity magazines now in circulation and not regulated elsewhere in the country, he said.

On the eve of Election Day, the firearms federation sent out an email to voters, calling the race a “tight one,” and urging them to “stop the worst gun grab in the country.”

State police and local sheriff’s offices have anticipated needing more staff to process the permit applications and conduct the background checks. State police also will need more staff to create and maintain a new database to track the number of annual permit applications, denials and reasons for denials.

The ballot measure is estimated to cost state and local governments $55 million in the first biennium and about $50 million for each successive biennium to administer, according to a state financial impact committee.

The revenue to local governments from permit fees is projected to be up to $19.5 million annually based on an estimated 300,000 applications per year.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian

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