A proposed law could make it more difficult for Oregonians to purchase firearms. The idea is simple. Ballot Measure 114 would require a fee for gun purchases, as well as fingerprint submissions, background checks, and a firearm safety course. It would also ban high-capacity magazines carrying 10 rounds or more. If passed, the measure would place Oregon among the states with the strictest gun laws in the nation. As a result, it’s created a heated debate between proponents of gun control and residents that are worried about their rights as gun owners.
Gun Restrictions and Countering a Rise in Crime in Oregon
Ballot Measure 114 is being called common sense gun legislation, proposed in the midst of what many consider to be a toxic climate, defined by school shootings, a rise in local crime, and political unrest. A 2021 poll placed Portland’s homicide rate at double the national average, and with the homelessness crisis surging throughout the state–even in rural areas–residents are finding themselves facing a conundrum. Many are afraid, cynical, and unsure of how to proceed.
Mayor Wheeler has been forced to address the rise in crime, stating that he will continue to increase the police department’s funding until the problem is solved. He’s spoken out multiple times about the lack of staffing for first responders, and he plans on pushing for funding across the board. Many, such as Amy Patrick of the Oregon Hunters association believe that more enforcement, more prosecutors, and more officers is the solution that the state needs, not more gun restrictions, and many residents agree with her. They also believe that gun measures will unfairly restrict their rights, sending the state down a slippery slope, which could mean stricter laws down the road.
The law’s multi-pronged approach makes it difficult to determine its efficacy. Background checks alone are said by many to be effective at saving lives. They make the answer seem simple, but experts are polarized on the issue, and they point to multiple studies on the subject. According to Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University, who spoke with NPR News, background checks save lives. Experts often cite studies showing that restrictions resulted in a drop in the homicide rate in Connecticut. But studies following the passage of the Brady Act show no reduction in homicides.
Fingerprinting could potentially be effective. It will give law enforcement more evidence that they could use to make a conviction. If someone else’s fingerprints are found on a firearm, they could say that it was stolen or taken from the gun owner, ruling them out as a suspect. If the fingerprints of a gun owner are found at the scene of a crime, they might be able to determine which weapon was used. So it serves as a protection for owners as well as a tool that law enforcement can use to track crime.
Safety classes could help reduce the rate of firearm injuries. Guns are not necessarily the most user-friendly pieces of equipment. They pose multiple safety hazards–things that many first-time gun owners wouldn’t even consider. They could easily go off or hurt people trying to use them. Classes will give gun owners the information they need to make sure that they stay safe, and they could institute a life-saving waiting period, known to give potentially violent gun owners time to think through their actions before they have access to a firearm. It’s not clear, however, whether or not this will lower the crime rate.
Magazine restrictions place a limit on how many bullets can be fired before a person has to pause and reload their gun. Some people believe that pause could save lives and make it harder for shooters to kill multiple people. Proponents of the idea often point to school shootings where semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines have been used to kill entire classrooms. This may or may not work. It won’t limit the number of bullets a person can carry, but it does give law enforcement time to take the shooter down. Some are opposed to the idea of further restrictions on the type of equipment civilians can possess. They think it’s a slippery slope, which could eventually lead to a complete weapons ban. This is a larger, existential issue, and it’s one that will likely play out quite a bit during the gun control debate. Public sentiment on this idea could determine the viability of future legislation.
The jury is out on all of the restrictions proposed. It’s up to the voters to decide whether or not they will be effective, or if they’re comfortable with passing gun legislation in general. There are many factors to consider.