Judge rules Oregon gun measure is unconstitutional
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — An Oregon county judge Tuesday issued a permanent injunction against a voter-backed law that regulates the purchase of gun permits and magazine capacity, finding it violates the state's constitution.
The ruling from the Harney County Circuit Court arrives almost a year after county residents Joseph Arnold and Cliff Asmussen joined the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners Foundation in suing Oregon officials to prevent the enforcement of Measure 114.
The controversial measure — which narrowly passed with 50.7% of the vote in November 2022 — imposed some of the nation's most stringent restrictions on guns. The law required Oregonians wishing to purchase a gun to obtain a permit after undergoing a criminal background check and completing a gun safety training course. The law also banned high-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, including those that could be modified to hold more.
The Harney County suit arrived alongside several other federal challenges in December 2022, causing the measure to stall in both courts pending rulings.
Last summer, U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut, a Donald Trump appointee, presided over a week-long bench trial for the consolidated federal cases, ultimately ruling that the measure is constitutional because its challengers had not shown that the Second Amendment protects large-capacity magazines. She also found that Oregon’s permit-to-purchase framework is “consistent with the type of regulations that the United States Supreme Court has deemed constitutional under the Second Amendment.”
The measure never went into place, however, as Harney County Judge Robert Raschio temporarily blocked enforcement of the law last December after hearing initial arguments on whether it violated residents’ right to bear arms under the Oregon Constitution.
“Oregon citizens have a right to self-defense against an imminent threat of harm, which is unduly burdened by Ballot Measure 114,” Raschio wrote, citing how the measure delays firearms purchases for at least 30 days while the permit-to-purchase program “mimics the concealed handgun license scheme reducing the right to bear arms to an unduly burdensome administrative due process right.”
Under the same train of thought, Raschio noted how a lack of FBI background checks would stall permits without a full judicial review, further burdening Oregonians' right to bear arms.
“The parties have stipulated that the Federal Bureau of Investigations will not conduct background checks on applicants who apply for a permit-to-purchase a firearm,” Raschio wrote. “The defendants invite the court to assume that the permits will be issued anyhow. The defendants provide no evidence on why that assumption would be true.”
As for the state’s ban on high-capacity firearms, the judge decided that magazines — along with the rest of a firearm’s components — are protected arms under Article 1, Section 27 of Oregon’s Constitution.
“There is no historical basis for limiting the size and capacity of firearms, including their magazines,” Raschio wrote, later adding that “firearm technology at founding of the state is the foundation for the current firearm technology.”
The judge said that banning large capacity magazines doesn't improve public safety to such a degree that it would be necessary to restrict them and burden the right to bear arms.
“The advocates for Ballot Measure 114 argue in the preamble and in the voters’ guide that a restraint on the amount of ammunition as the key to preventing mass shootings,” Raschio wrote. “Nothing in the preamble, the voters’ guide nor the defendants’ evidence provide a rationale for why the rounds should be limited to ten as opposed to any other arbitrary numbers that could have been picked nor did they show the limitation of ten rounds has any demonstratable effect on negative outcomes to mass shooting events.”
Defendants in the complaint include former Oregon Governor Kate Brown, state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Superintendent of the Oregon State Police Terri Davie. In response to Raschio’s order, Rosenblum issued a statement vowing to appeal the order.
“The Harney County judge's ruling is wrong,” Rosenblum said. “Worse, it needlessly puts Oregonians' lives at risk. The state will file an appeal and we believe we will prevail.”
Meanwhile, Gun Owners Foundation celebrated the decision on X, a platform formerly known as Twitter, declaring the ruling “a huge win in strong anti-gun territory.”