Sep 15, 2023 - News

State trial of new Oregon gun law to begin

Illustration of a gun stopped up by a gavel.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The second legal challenge to firearms restrictions approved by Oregon voters last year — but put on hold by a judge — is due to start Monday in a southeast Oregon courtroom.

Why it matters: In federal court earlier this year, opponents of the law lost their first round. This state trial provides a different path to challenge the law.

Driving the news: A series of pre-trial legal filings tried to limit what evidence can be presented in court.

  • The presiding judge says he will focus only on whether the text of the measure is constitutional in Oregon, not how it might be put into practice.

What they're saying: Tony Aiello, a lawyer representing gun owners who are contesting the law, told Axios in an email the judge's pre-trial rulings were "overwhelmingly positive," despite disallowing some evidence plaintiffs had wanted to present.

  • Aiello had wanted to argue that state police would not be able to implement the permit program, as directed by the law.
  • While the court won't allow that, it will hear gun owners' arguments that the state can't order the federal government to process the background checks that the law requires before guns are sold, Aiello said.

Details: The judge said he also won't allow evidence that the defendants of the law wanted to present, specifically on the severity of wounds by large capacity magazines and the impact of gun violence on victims and survivors.

  • Despite that, "we still believe that we will put on a persuasive case that Measure 114 is constitutional," Roy Kaufmann, a spokesperson for Oregon's Department of Justice, told Axios in an email. The DOJ is defending the law,

Catch up quick: Last year, voters passed a state ballot measure that, if upheld, would significantly change Oregon law.

  • It limits firearm magazines to 10 bullets.
  • It mandates a full background check be completed before a gun can be sold.
  • It requires a permit to purchase a firearm, and firearm safety training before a permit will be issued.

By the numbers: 50.64% of Oregon residents who voted supported the law, while 49.35% voted against it.

What's next: This state trial is scheduled for six days, through next Monday, the Harney County circuit court clerk told Axios. Any ruling is likely to be appealed.

  • In the federal suit, gun rights groups have filed a notice to appeal the initial ruling.

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