Jul 18, 2023 - News

Gun rights groups say they'll appeal Oregon restrictions

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Gun rights groups intend to appeal a federal court ruling that found Oregon's voter-approved firearms restrictions hold up under constitutional scrutiny.

  • The federal decision was issued last Friday.

Why it matters: At issue are restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines and a requirement that people obtain a permit before they can buy a gun. Both are major elements of Measure 114, which Oregon voters passed by a slim margin last November.

Catch up quick: 50.6% of Oregonians approved Measure 114, while 49.4% voted against it.

  • Shortly afterward, the new law was challenged in state and federal courts.
  • A state judge issued an injunction against the law, blocking it from going into effect until legal challenges are resolved.
  • Federal Judge Karin Immergut denied a federal injunction, and in early June held a five-day trial on the measure's constitutionality in a Portland courthouse.

Details: In the court's opinion that the measure is constitutional, Immergut wrote that the 10-bullet limits on magazine size are "not an unconstitutional taking of property, are not unconstitutionally retroactive, and are not unconstitutionally vague."

  • On permits — which under Measure 114 would require training and a completed background check before purchase — she wrote that Oregon's new "permit-to-purchase framework is consistent with the type of regulations" that the Supreme Court has approved as constitutional in the past.

Context: Last year, a Supreme Court decision reiterated the right to self-defense and said that gun restrictions can only be constitutional if there is a history of similar regulation.

  • But Immergut's ruling noted that the higher court decision also left room for regulation in response to "dramatic technological changes."
  • Her ruling found that while people buy large-capacity ammunition magazines with self-defense in mind, it is "exceedingly rare" for more than 10 shots to be fired in such situations.

Of note: Former President Trump nominated Immergut to the federal bench five years ago, and the Senate confirmed her with the support of Oregon's two senators, both Democrats.

What they're saying: Immergut's decision "was incredibly thorough and well reasoned," said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, the litigation director for the Giffords Law Center.

The other side: "Based on [Immergut's] reasoning no one should be allowed to own a magazine that contains more than 2.2 rounds," the Oregon Firearms Federation told Axios in an email.

What's next: The appeal was expected, and means eventually the Supreme Court will be asked to consider these new Oregon gun restrictions.

  • The state trial is scheduled for the fall, although two national gun rights organizations have apparently dropped out.

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