Oregon judge extends ban on parts of tough new gun law

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon judge on Tuesday extended an earlier order blocking a key part of a new,…

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon judge on Tuesday extended an earlier order blocking a key part of a new, voter-approved gun law and was hearing lengthy arguments on whether to also prevent the law’s ban on high-capacity magazines from taking effect.

Harney County Judge Robert Raschio let stand his temporary restraining order that blocks a permit-to-purchase provision of Measure 114, a law narrowly approved by voters in Oregon in November. He also temporarily blocked another provision of the new law that prevented the sale of a gun until the results of a background check came back. Under current federal law, a gun sale can proceed by default if the background check takes longer than three business days — the so-called Charleston loophole, because it allowed the assistant to purchase the gun used in a 2015 South Carolina mass shooting.

The lawsuit in Harney County, filed by Gun Owners of America Inc., the Gun Owners Foundation and several individual gun owners, seeks to have the entire law placed on hold while its constitutionality is decided. The state lawsuit specifically makes the claims under the Oregon Constitution, not the US Constitution.

Raschio continued to hear arguments Tuesday on the most controversial part of the law, a ban on the sale, transfer or import of gun magazines containing more than 10 rounds. It wasn’t clear if he would rule from the bench Tuesday or release a written order later.

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, the state had agreed to delay the permit-to-purchase portion of the law until Feb. 8 because of a lack of certified law enforcement to oversee the in-person gun handling training class that would be required.

“I’m going to continue the temporary restraining order with regards to the permit-to-purchase because I’m convinced that there’s irreparable harm to the right to bear arms,” Raschio said. The order will remain in effect “until I receive notice from the defendants that they’re prepared to deploy a permit-to-purchase” system, he added.

Measure 114 requires a permit, criminal background check, fingerprinting and hands-on training course for new firearms buyers. It also bans the sale, transfer or import of gun magazines over 10 rounds unless they are owned by law enforcement or a military member or were owned before the measure’s passage. 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.

Gun sales and requests for background checks soared in the weeks since the measure was approved because of fears the new law would prevent or significantly delay the purchase of new firearms under the permitting system.

Multiple gun rights groups, local sheriffs and gun store owners have sued, saying the law violates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. All of those lawsuits were filed in federal courts except for the one in Harney County.

The plaintiffs called several witnesses Tuesday to testify about the ban on high-capacity magazines.

The owner of a gun store tested that, based on his experience, 90% of guns would be illegal in the state if Measure 114 takes effect because most guns that would be legal under the law have magazine bases that can be removed and extenders that can be added to increase the number of rounds fired.

Numerous gun manufacturers are already refusing to ship such guns to his store because of the law, said Ben Callaway, who owns the Spent Cartridge in Burns, Oregon.

“They just won’t let you put it in the cart,” he said of online shopping for guns. “The only firearms I could currently purchase from them is a firearm that ships without a magazine.”

Last week, a federal judge in Portland hearing a different challenge to the law under the US Constitution delivered an initial victory to proponents of the sweeping gun-control measure that passed in the Nov. 8 midterms.

In her Dec. 6 ruling, US District Judge Karin Immergut allowed the ban on the sale and transfer of new high-capacity magazines to take effect. She was also granted a 30-day delay before the law’s permit-to-purchase mandate took effect, but did not quash it entirely as gun rights advocates had wanted.

But Raschio’s subsequent same-day ruling threw the law into limbo: Because the lawsuit challenged Measure 114 under the Oregon Constitution, it held precedence in the state, legal experts said.

On Tuesday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Brian Marshall objected to Rachio’s block on the background check provisions, saying that part of the law had never been challenged in the Harney County lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs.

Raschio set a Dec. 23 hearing on that question.


Follow Gillian Flaccus here.

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