PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon judge handed gun rights advocates a victory Thursday, putting a new voter-approved ban on high-capacity magazines on hold until questions about its constitutionality can be decided.
Harney County Judge Robert Raschio released the written ruling after a protracted court hearing earlier this week in which attorneys from gun rights groups sought an injunction to stop the narrowly-enacted more than 10-round ban on magazines.
“That the bans on large-capacity magazines promote public safety is pure speculation,” Raschio wrote. “The court cannot base the limitation on constitutional rights on mere speculation that the limitation might promote public safety.”
The decision followed one by Raschio on Tuesday, which temporarily blocked a purchase authorization provision of Measure 114 and another part of the law that would prevent the sale of a gun pending the results of a background check. Under current federal law, by default, a gun sale can proceed if the background check takes more than three business days — known as the Charleston loopholes because they allowed the attacker to purchase the gun used in a 2015 mass shooting in South Carolina.
The Harney County lawsuit, filed by Gun Owners of America Inc., the Gun Owners Foundation and several individual gun owners, aims to put the entire law on hold while its constitutionality is determined. The state suit expressly asserts claims under the Oregon Constitution, not the US Constitution.
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Measure 114 requires a permit, criminal background check, fingerprinting and hands-on training course for new firearm buyers. It also prohibits the sale, transfer, or import of 10-round gun magazines unless they are owned by law enforcement or a military member, or were in possession prior to the passage of the measure. Anyone who already owns a high-capacity magazine will only be allowed to keep it at home after the measure comes into effect, or to use it at a shooting range, in shooting competitions, or for hunting within the limits of state legislation.
Gun sales and requests for background checks have surged in the weeks since the measure was approved amid fears the new law would prevent or significantly delay purchases of new firearms under the licensing system.
Several gun rights groups, local sheriffs and gun shop owners have sued, saying the law violates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. All of these lawsuits have been filed in federal courts except for the one in Harney County.
A federal judge in Portland, hearing another challenge to the law under the US Constitution on Dec. 6, handed a first victory to supporters of the comprehensive gun control measure passed in the midterms on Nov. 8.
In it, US District Judge Karin Immergut put the ban on the sale and distribution of new high-performance magazines into effect. It also allowed a 30-day delay before legal purchase authorization takes effect, but didn’t rescind it entirely, as gun rights advocates wanted.
But Raschio’s subsequent ruling that same day threw the law in limbo: Because that lawsuit challenged Section 114 of the Oregon constitution, it had precedence in the state, legal experts said.