In another blow to supporters of the state’s recent ballot initiative, Oregon will not be allowed to enforce any of the new gun measures it instituted for the foreseeable future.
Harney County Judge Robert Raschio issued a temporary restraining order against Measure 114 on Tuesday. The order, first reported by The Oregonian, came just a few hours after a federal judge delayed implementation of the permit-to-purchase requirement for gun sales. Judge Roschio also blocked the permitting system but went a step further and blocked the entire law as a violation of the state Constitution.
“Absent entry of this Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs will be deprived of their right to bear arms pursuant to Or. Const. Art. 1, Sec. 27 by being made unable to lawfully purchase a firearm or bear a magazine holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition in the state of Oregon,” Judge Raschio wrote. “Deprivation of fundamental Constitutional Rights for any period constitutes irreparable harm.”
The second, more expansive ruling is a further setback for supporters of the new gun restrictions. After narrowly passing with 50.7 percent of the vote just a month ago, Measure 114 has run headlong into a logistical nightmare stemming from the tiny window for compliance advocates wrote into the initiative. It has also come up against nearly half a dozen legal challenges from every major gun-rights group in the country, all of whom argue it violates the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in both the federal and state constitutions.
Measure 114 advocates had faired better in Tuesday’s federal court ruling from U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut, who delayed implementation of the permit-to-purchase system at the state’s request but said the pro-gun plaintiffs had failed to prove the underlying policies caused them irreparable harm. Her ruling would have given the state another month to devise a permit system and allowed the magazine ban to go into effect as scheduled next summer. Judge Immergut also argued magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition, which come standard with most handguns and rifles sold today, may not be protected by the Second Amendment.
“Plaintiffs have not shown that the magazines restricted by Measure 114 are necessary to the use of firearms for lawful purposes such as self-defense,” she wrote. “Therefore, Plaintiffs have failed to show that magazines capable of accepting more than ten rounds of ammunition are covered by the plain text of the Second Amendment.”
Judge Raschio disagreed.
“The plaintiffs are persuasive that magazines are protected by the Oregon constitution, and firearms containing fixed magazines that can hold 10 bullets or more are in common use within Oregon,” he said in his ruling from the bench.
Judge Immergut also said the permit-to-purchase system might be constitutional under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen because it is a “shall issue” system that does not allow government officials to subjectively deny permits. But Judge Raschio was more skeptical the law could survive a constitutional challenge.
“With implementation, there are serious harms to the public interest as well, which could include individuals being arrested and prosecuted for Class A misdemeanors under what could be found to be an unconstitutional statutory scheme,” he said. “And that potentially could happen if Ballot Measure 114 is allowed to go into effect without significant judicial scrutiny. And, certainly, no one would argue that individual liberty is not a cornerstone of our country. First the people, then the state.”
Gun Owners of America, one of the plaintiffs in the case, celebrated the ruling as a significant victory.
“This is an exciting victory for our members in Oregon as the clock was winding down on securing relief from the onerous and unconstitutional requirements this law would have placed on current and future gun owners,” Erich Pratt, the group’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing the fight.”
Kristina Edmunson, a spokesperson for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D.), said the state plans to appeal the ruling.
“We are still sorting through everything, but I can tell you we will be shortly filing a mandamus petition asking the Oregon Supreme Court to review it immediately,” Edmunson told The Oregonian.
Judge Raschio denied the state’s request to stay his ruling pending an appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. Oregon officials will be blocked from enforcing the law unless and until the state Supreme Court intervenes.