(Update: Supreme Court issues ruling)
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Supreme Court late Wednesday afternoon rejected an appeal by the state Department of Justice seeking to thwart a Harney County judge's injunction that blocks Thursday's enactment of Ballot Measure 114, one of the nation's most restrictive gun laws.
The two-paragraph decision by Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters denied the petition for a writ of mandamus and as a result said the state's motion to stay the lower court order was "dismissed as moot."
"This order is issued without prejudice as to the filing of any future petition for a writ of mandamus or other motion in this court by any party in relation to any other rulings in the underlying proceeding," the order concluded.
The state had filed a mandamus petition earlier Wednesday, asking the court to immediately review -- and reverse -- the ruling.
The gun safety law, approved by the voters last month by way of the initiative petition process, was originally set to go into effect Thursday, but the ruling in Harney County puts a stop to that.
There are several cases pending that have challenged the new law. In contrast to the Harney County state court ruling, in a separate case, US District Court Judge Karin Immergut on Tuesday day denied a request by the Oregon Firearms Federation and other plaintiffs to temporarily prevent implementation of the large-capacity magazine restrictions of Measure 114.
If not for Judge Raschio’s ruling, those restrictions would have gone into effect Thursday, along with the fix for the “Charleston loophole” – a federal loophole that allows gun transfers to proceed if background checks cannot be completed quickly.
Statement from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:
“We strongly disagree with the decision of the Harney County Circuit Court. Our mandamus petition to the Oregon Supreme Court gives our highest state court the opportunity to weigh in now and reverse the Harney County judge’s ruling.
"Magazine capacity restrictions and permitting requirements have a proven track record: they save lives! We are confident the Oregon Constitution—like the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution—allows these reasonable regulations.”
BURNS, Ore. (KTVZ) – In the second court ruling of the day, a Harney County judge on Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order against enacting all of Oregon’s gun control Measure 114, two days before it is due to take effect and just hours after a federal judge issued a 30-day stay for the permit part of the new law.
One frustrated Bend resident that wanted to remain anonymous said the whole measure needs to go away.
“It just creates more havoc for people, more things that the states going to have to do, it’s going to cause our sheriff’s office and police departments to be blocked up," he said.
Hammer Down Firearms in Bend is a gun store that didn’t want to speak on camera, but said they believe that Measure 114 is unconstitutional and will harm a lot of businesses.
Another Bend resident who wanted to remain anonymous said measure 114 has had an adverse effect.
“It did a lot to increase gun sales, I can tell you that," he said. "(The state is) not doing anything. The black market's open seven days a week, 365 days a year, 24/7. They don’t require ID, nothing. Just bring cash.”
According to Oregon State Police, gun sales have surged, with more than 4,000 requests per day.
Harney County Circuit Judge Robert Raschio issued his bench ruling three hours after the federal judge said the measure could take effect as planned, with a 30-day delay in a provision requiring a permit to buy a gun, The Oregonian reported.
The Harney County case, brought by the Gun Owners of America, challenged Measure 114 under Oregon’s Constitution. The judge found that the public interest weighs against the measure’s implementation at this time and set a Dec. 13 hearing on a requested preliminary injunction.
While there has been “relentless news about mass shootings and slaughter of innocents,” Raschio said the plaintiffs had shown that putting Measure 114 on hold will maintain the status quo until the court can determined in the hearing for an injunction whether the measure passes constitutional muster under Article 1, Section 27 of the state Constitution: “The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defence (sic) of themselves, and the State, but the Military shall be kept in struct subordination to the civil power(.)”
The attorney general’s office will petition for higher court review of the decision, said Kristina Edmunson, a spokesperson for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
“We are still sorting through everything, but I can tell you we will be shortly filing a mandamus petition asking the Oregon Supreme Court to review it immediately,” Edmunson said.
Rosenblum said in a series of tweets, “As of now, the law cannot go into effect Thursday. What’s next? We will petition to the Oregon Supreme Court ASAP, seeking to align the result in our state courts with the federal court’s well-reasoned and thoughtful decision.”
Earlier Tuesday, a federal judge weighing a lawsuit seeking to block Measure 114 issued a ruling that put a 30-day hold on the “permit to purchase” portion of the gun regulation measure but allowed other aspects of the controversial new law to take effect this week.
The 43-page ruling would allow a ban on sale and transfer of large-capacity (over 10 rounds) to take effect Thursday, as well as a requirement that background checks be completed before any gun is sold or transferred, The Oregonian reported.
The state late Sunday had filed a request for a two-month delay in the permit implementation so a processing system can be implemented, but asked that the rest of the narrowly approved measure be allowed to take effect 30 days after the Nov. 8 election, as scheduled.
There already have been four legal challenges filed in federal court and one in Harney County Circuit Court by gun rights advocates and national organizations, such as Gun Owners of America, the newspaper reported.
U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut found that those who filed the lawsuit – the Oregon Firearms Federation, three county sheriffs and two gun-store owners – had failed to show in their request for a temporary restraining order that they would suffer “immediate and irreparable harm” if Measure 114 takes effect.
She also wrote that they failed to show that magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds are necessary for self-defense or commonly used for lawful purposes.
However, she wrote, “in light of the difficulty the State has conceded in terms of implementation of the permitting provisions at this stage,” the judge put a stay on the permit restrictions for 30 days. That means Oregonians won’t be required to obtain a permit before buying a gun for 30 days after the measure takes effect.
The federal judge directed the state and other parties to the case to confer and report to her if any further postponements are needed.
NewsChannel 21's Bola Gbadebo is working to talk to local officials for their reaction to the ruling on Measure 114. She will have a report at 5 p.m.
Measure 114 requires a permit, criminal background check, fingerprinting and hands-on training course for new firearms buyers and bans the sale, transfer or import of high-capacity gun magazines except in certain cases. The requirement that a background check must be completed before a gun can be sold or transferred will also take effect Thursday. Previously, a gun could be sold or transferred after three days if the background check had not come back.
Multiple gun rights groups, local sheriffs and gun store owners have sued, saying the law violates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. The Oregon Firearms Federation, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement Tuesday they were disappointed with the ruling and urged their supporters to remain patient as they gathered more information about next steps.
“But for now, unless something really unexpected happens, understand that your rights will be, once again, seriously eroded starting Thursday,” the group wrote.
The interfaith coalition that placed Measure 114 on the ballot said it appreciated the judge's ruling and understood the need for a delay in the permit-to-purchase provision to sort out the process.
“We want the best results possible. We’d like to see the permitting in place this week because that would save lives, but at the same time we understand that it will take longer to do it well,” said Mark Knutson, chairman of the Lift Every Voice Oregon campaign and pastor at Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church.
“For us, it’s all about saving lives and safety.”
Tuesday's ruling is far from the end of the legal wrangling over the new law; at least four lawsuits have been filed against it. And Immergut's decision only addresses an initial temporary restraining order sought by gun rights plaintiffs as the law's constitutionality is debated by the courts. More hearings in this case, and others, are scheduled going forward.
Gun store owners and the Oregon State Police have reported a surge in gun sales and in requests for background checks since the measure passed Nov. 8 as people seek to buy firearms before it takes effect.
Measure 114's fate is being carefully watched by both gun rights advocates and those who want stricter limits on gun ownership because it is one of the first to take effect after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a New York law that placed limits on carrying guns outside the home.
The June ruling signaled a shift in the way the nation’s high court will evaluate Second Amendment infringement claims, with the Supreme Court's conservative majority finding judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests like enhancing public safety.
Instead, judges should only weigh whether the law is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.”
Gun-rights supporters have called the June ruling a “wrecking ball” for firearms restrictions. Since then, federal judges in Texas have struck down a law against adults under 21 carrying handguns and a ban on people under indictment from buying firearms. Judges have also blocked measures in West Virginia, Delaware and Colorado.
Other gun regulations have survived challenges since the ruling, however, including one involving ghost guns in California and one on non-violent felons owning guns in Pennsylvania.
“This is not an abstract exercise -- when a judge strikes down a gun law, they are putting our lives in danger. Bruen may have opened the door to extremism, but it does not close the door to gun safety and states can and should continue to pass common sense gun safety laws. And we’re ready to go to court to defend them,” Eric Tirschwell, executive director of Everytown Law, said in a statement, referring to the June decision.
Still, the Supreme Court also sent back to a lower court for review a California ban on high-capacity magazines that’s similar to Oregon’s new law.
Immergut noted in her 43-page ruling that the Second Amendment landscape had changed because of the New York case but also pointed out that the high court said its ruling should not be considered a blanket rejection of individual state's rules around firearms permitting.
The New York ruling is not a “regulatory straight jacket” that protects a right to “keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," she wrote, citing the New York case.
Under Oregon's new law, the ban on the sale, import or transfer of magazines over 10 rounds unless they are owned by law enforcement or a military member or were owned before the measure’s passage has been the biggest legal flash point. Those who already own high-capacity magazines can only possess them in their homes or use them at a firing range, in shooting competitions or for hunting as allowed by state law after the measure takes effect.
Such magazines sold to or used by law enforcement or military members after Thursday will require a special marking to signal it's legal under the exceptions spelled out in the law; gun store owners must get rid all other high-capacity magazines after Thursday.
The law also requires gun buyers to obtain a permit to purchase a new firearm. Permit applicants must take a state-approved, hands-on gun safety training course with live or dry rounds, submit a photo ID and undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check. The state will keep a list of permit-holders that’s exempt from public disclosure. The $65 permits will be good for five years and can be used to buy multiple guns in that five-year period with a fresh background check.
State laws requiring a permit to purchase a firearm were associated with 60% lower odds of having a public mass shooting, according to a study published in 2020. Limits on large-capacity magazines, meanwhile, were linked with 38% fewer people killed in mass shootings, it found.
Defendants noted in their legal filings, which were cited in the judge’s ruling, that every mass shooting since 2004 that resulted in 14 or more deaths involved gun magazines with 10 or more rounds.