Government, News, OREGON

Harney County judge blocks ban on large-capacity firearms magazine sales

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.

A Harney County Circuit Court judge on Thursday blocked a new voter-approved Oregon law banning the sale of large-capacity firearms magazines with more than 10 rounds from taking effect while court arguments proceed.

Judge Robert Raschio’s preliminary injunction also stops the state from enforcing other parts of Measure 114, including a permit system that will require purchasers to undergo training from a law enforcement-certified instructor to obtain a firearm. State and law enforcement officials have asked for more time to put a permit system in place to meet the law’s requirements, which include applicants participating in live demonstrations of firearms.

Voters passed Measure 114 in November in response to mass shootings across the nation by shooters who use firearms with high-capacity magazines. The measure has drawn widespread condemnation from gun owners, firearms dealers and rural Oregon sheriffs.

The Harney County lawsuit, filed against Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, seeks to overturn the measure based on the Oregon state constitution’s Article 1, Section 27, which provides the right for people to “bear arms for the defense of themselves, and the state.” A separate federal lawsuit challenges the measure based on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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“That the large capacity magazine bans promote public safety is mere speculation,” Raschio wrote in his order. “The court cannot sustain a restraint on a constitutional right on mere speculation that the restriction could promote public safety.”

The Oregon Department of Justice, which is defending the state, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Separately, Raschio will require a court hearing when state officials notify the court that a permit system is ready to determine if it passes constitutional muster. Earlier this month, state officials and law enforcement officials raised concerns that a system would not be ready in time for the measure’s Dec. 8 implementation.

Raschio’s preliminary injunction isn’t a final decision and keeps the new law from going into effect while the Harney County lawsuit proceeds to trial. 

The Harney County lawsuit was filed against the state by Gun Owners of America, based in Virginia, and a related organization, the Gun Owners Foundation. Other plaintiffs include Joseph Arnold and Cliff Asmussen, two Harney County firearms owners. Gun Owners of America says on its website it has more than 2 million members and lobbies for firearms owners to exercise the “right to keep and bear arms without compromise.”

The requirements of Measure 114 have attracted widespread criticism from firearms owners and dealers and several rural sheriffs who say it’s unenforceable and will eat into limited law enforcement resources. 

Measure 114 also closes a loophole that allows firearm sales to go through if background checks aren’t completed within three business days. Raschio will have a Dec. 23 hearing about that issue and whether to block the change or allow it to proceed.

A federal court is handling a separate suit against Measure 114. In a ruling on that case last week, U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut said Oregon can postpone the permit requirements for 30 days after the state asked for a postponement. But Immergut ruled that other parts of the measure, including the ban on sales of high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds, can go into effect as scheduled on Dec. 8.

The Harney County judge’s order took precedence over the federal order, though. The Oregon Supreme Court declined to intervene at the request of Rosenblum and the Oregon Department of Justice.

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