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Oregon attorney general asks federal judge to delay gun permitting in Measure 114

Guns for sale at a Portland gun show.
Dave Blanchard
Guns for sale at a Portland gun show.

The Oregon Department of Justice requested a federal judge postpone implementation of one provision in Measure 114, the new firearm restrictions passed by voters in November.

Measure 114 requires anyone who wants to buy a firearm to first take a firearms safety course and get a permit. In a Sunday court filing the Justice Department acknowledged what law enforcement leaders and firearms dealers have been saying since election day: the permitting system will not be in place by Dec. 8 when the law is supposed to take effect.

“Postponing the permit requirement by approximately two months should give Oregon law enforcement time to have a fully functional permitting system in place,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “If Judge Immergut agrees to the postponement, then starting in February anyone who purchases a gun in Oregon will be required to have a permit.”

In the letter written to U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut, Senior Assistant Attorney General Brian Simmonds Marshall said after a hearing last week, the state learned law enforcement agencies were unprepared for the “[i]n-person demonstration ... before an instructor certified by a law enforcement agency,” as required by the new law.”

“As such, it has become clear that the police chiefs and sheriffs (who serve as the sole permitting agents under Measure 114) will not be prepared to issue permits on December 8,” the letter said.

In a declaration submitted to the court for one of the four lawsuits challenging Measure 114, Oregon State Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Jason Myers said even if the permitting infrastructure was in place, no one could get a permit since there are no certified courses in the state that meet the new law’s requirements.

“OSSA is working on the development of a training course to meet Measure 114′s requirements, but is not aware of any training program that is currently available and meets all of Measure 114′s strict requirements,” Myers wrote. “Because it is unlikely that anyone can provide certification of training on these specific requirements, every person, including law enforcement officers wishing to obtain a permit, will first have to complete training that does not yet exist.”

The Oregon State Police are responsible for drafting the rules implementing Measure 114 and few details have trickled out since election day. It is expected that sheriffs, who currently administer the state’s concealed handgun licensing process, along with police departments, will assume responsibility for the permit-to-purchase system.

In a Dec. 2 statement, OSP said the permit application form was in the final review phase and will be available on its website when the law takes effect later this week. But with only a month between election day and the law taking effect, the email said the permit application process would be a “manual paper process until new technical systems can be designed and implemented.”

In court Friday, Marshall drew laughter from the gallery when he told Immergut the permitting system will be up and running Dec. 8.

One of a growing list of lawsuits against the state specifically addresses the complex permitting regime and likely delays implementing it. The most recent lawsuit was brought by a Yamhill County resident and Sportsman’s Warehouse, a national sporting goods chain with eight stores in Oregon.

“Whether or not the permit requirement is unconstitutional…what certainly is unconstitutional is requiring a non-existent permit to exercise a fundamental constitutional right,” the lawsuit says. It is asking the judge to declare Measure 114 unconstitutional as long as there is no permitting system in place.

In its letter, the Department of Justice maintains Measure 114′s provisions are constitutional and is asking for a limited window when people can apply for and receive permits but they won’t be required for firearms purchases.

Measure 114 also bans magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and closes a loophole in federal firearms laws that allows a gun sale to go through if a background check is not completed in three days. In the letter to Immergut, Marshall said those provisions should still be allowed to take effect.

Immergut is expected to rule early this week on whether she’ll grant a temporary restraining order blocking the new law partially or in its entirety while a more in-depth challenge is heard in court.

Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner spoke to reporters Monday about the roll-out of Ballot Measure 114.
Karen Richards
Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner spoke to reporters Monday about the roll-out of Ballot Measure 114.

Meanwhile, Eugene’s police chief said Monday that his agency won’t be ready to roll out a “permit-to-purchase” system for gun buyers if Measure 114 takes on Thursday. Chris Skinner said the short time between last month’s election and the measure’s effective date made it difficult to create an application process in time.

“This is about trying to put together a really robust, understandable, simple, consistent, equitable process for people," he said. "And we’re just not in a space where we’re going to meet that deadline on December 8th, which is this Thursday.”

Skinner, who is also president of the Oregon Association of Police Chiefs, said regardless of the implementation challenges, or eventual timeline, he's committed to carrying out the will of the voters.

"When voters say yes...it's my job to implement it," he said. "And that's where we're at."

KLCC's Karen Richards contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 KLCC and Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jonathan Levinson
Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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