On Nov. 8, Oregonians will decide whether or not tighter gun regulations and limits on high capacity magazines will benefit the general populace.
Gun regulation activists see this measure as a necessary step in the fight against gun violence, many of the victims of the violence being Black and brown community members. They hope it will send a message to the rest of the country about the future of firearm reform.
“The passing of Measure 114 will save lives,” says Anthony Johnson, communications director for the Yes on Measure 114 Campaign. “Oregonians across the state have been suffering record-breaking gun violence.”
Others see the measure as unconstitutional and worry about gun inaccessibility for minorities and lower income Oregonians.
If voters approve Measure 114, anyone wanting to purchase a gun in Oregon would first need to participate in a gun safety training course and complete a federal criminal background check. It would also ban magazines containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition, with exceptions for people already owning higher capacity magazines. The process of purchasing permits would be created and overseen by the Oregon State Police and aided by local law enforcement agencies. Permits would cost up to $65 and would be valid for 6 years. Guns already owned would not require permits. OSP would utilize a secure database to track permit expiration dates.
“We oppose any attempt to chip away at your God-given, constitutionally guaranteed right to defend yourself and your family,” says Kevin Starret, president of the Oregon Firearms Federation. He says that the measure will “increase police surveillance” and “attack minorities and Oregon’s poorest citizens.”
Starret, who is white, not only maintains that the measure is unconstitutional but also says that it is “an overtly racist measure that will be used to attack minorities just as a similar law was used against Dr. Martin Luther King.” He argues that the measure will make it harder for minorities to buy guns, and this makes the measure racist.
“Oregon’s poorest citizens will be denied the ability to protect themselves even as police do not respond to calls for help,” Starret says. The measure would also make it harder for lower income Oregonians to buy firearms with the $65 permit fee.
However, Miles Pendleton, president of the Eugene/Springfield branch of the NAACP, disagrees. “I strongly support Measure 114,” he says. “While I know in some corners it’s been presented as a BIPOC issue or inequitable, the fact of the matter is, this measure has been pushed forward by the BIPOC community.”
Pendleton points out that BIPOC individuals have taken part in the “drafting, the redrafting — the process of authoring this piece of legislation.” He emphasizes that it has been BIPOC leaders across the state who have been advocating for Measure 114. He maintains that according to the latest polling data he’s seen, BIPOC community members are the strongest in support of this measure.
“Black people are at the highest risk for gun homicide, and we’re over 11 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white people here statewide in Oregon,” Pendleton says. “When you leave it in the hands of the people, and you allow them to vote on their principles, on their values, they vote in favor of these progressive initiatives.”
Oregon Votes Yes is supported by the Oregon Education Association, the National Education Association and the Oregon Progressive Alliance. These three organizations have contributed a total of $625,000 to Oregon Votes Yes. Safe Schools, Safe Communities Oregon has received significant donations from the National Education Association ($125,000), Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund Inc PAC ($130,000), Sixteen Thirty Fund ($250,000) and Connie Ballmer ($750,000). But in total, Safe Schools, Safe Communities Oregon has garnered $2,201,100 in support.
The NRA Oregonians for Freedom, an organization that opposes Measure 114, is backed by the NRA National Committee. The NRA has donated almost $30,000 to Oregonians for Freedom, in its efforts to halt the passage of Measure 114. The Stop 114 Committee has received a total of $76,000 in donations and is backed by the Oregon Firearms Federation PAC, which contributed $31,000.
Starret says that the measure “greatly expands police surveillance power and will create a published list of rape and domestic violence victims.”
The “police surveillance” is in reference to the fact that the Oregon State Police will oversee and create the permitting process and have a secure database to track expirations. It will not, however, be public, and will not contain a list of rape and domestic violence victims.
“There has been a lot of misinformation spread about Measure 114,” Yes on 114 spokesperson Johnson says. “I would encourage people to read it for themselves.” He drives home the fact that “guns purchased under Measure 114 are not a matter of public record.” And any claims otherwise “are simply not true.”
In addition, he says that Measure 114 will “establish a permitting system that has been shown, by Johns Hopkins researchers and researchers across the nation, to save lives and reduce gun violence.”
Johnson says that “limiting these types of high capacity magazines has been shown to reduce the number of mass shootings states suffer, and the mass shootings that do occur are less deadly than states that allow high capacity magazines.” Above all, he says, “Homicides and suicides by gun hurt communities all across our state.”
And although “gun violence in urban areas like Portland attract most of the headlines, the fact of the matter is that there are rural counties with a higher gun death rate than Multnomah county.” Johnson adds that he hopes that Oregonians understand the weight this vote holds and that “states will look to Oregon as the pioneer in sensible gun safety measures.”
If this measure were to pass, the NAACP’s Pendleton says, “We send a resounding message and we inspire hope nationwide, that this gun legislation reform is possible.” And if it doesn’t, “Lawmakers won’t want to touch the issue for a couple years. We don’t have a couple years.”