Backers drop gun storage initiative for now

Supporters of IP 44, a proposed ballot measure that would require gun owners to secure weapons in a lock box or by using a trigger or cable lock, say they don't have enough time to gather signatures to get the measure on November's ballot.

SALEM — Citing time constraints, supporters of an initiative petition to impose new storage requirements on gun owners say they won’t try to put the issue before voters this year after all.

Supporters of Initiative Petition 44 are withdrawing the petition, they announced Wednesday. They plan to refile for the 2020 ballot and lobby the Legislature to pass the measure next year.

Supporters of the petition said they didn’t have enough time to collect the 88,184 signatures required to get the measure on the ballot by the July 6 deadline.

“We are not discouraged and look forward to working with legislators to pass this important measure in the 2019 session,” Henry Wessinger, one of the chief petitioners on the measure, said in a prepared statement.

Another petition that would place restrictions on what types of firearms Oregonians can own — Initiative Petition 43 — faces the same deadline.

Its ballot title is still caught up in the courts, so the petition can’t be circulated for signatures yet.

As of two weeks ago, supporters of that campaign were still sanguine about their prospects to gather the needed signatures in time.

Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson, of Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, who is a chief petitioner of IP 43, says supporters are still “tremendously” optimistic about the petition’s prospects.

The Lift Every Voice campaign has trained 700 people to train even more people in how to properly gather signatures, Knutson said. He believes the campaign has laid the groundwork to quickly get enough signatures, from having a printer ready to print petitions at a moment’s notice to holding signature-gathering trainings throughout the state.

And he says the political atmosphere is primed for the petition, about four months after a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, galvanizing a new wave of gun control activism.

“It’s one of those moments in time when people are ready to act,” Knutson said of the initiative. “There’s an anxiousness to move, not to wait.”

The campaign is focusing on the weekend before Independence Day — they’re calling it a “signature sabbath” — as a key period in which to gather signatures.

Initiative Petition 44 would have required gun owners to secure their firearms in a lock box or by using a trigger or cable lock.

It would also require them to report if one of their guns is stolen or lost within 24 hours of learning of the theft or loss.

Failure to comply with those requirements would be considered a violation, not a crime.

The measure would have also held gun owners civilly liable for five years following an incident for injuries resulting from a failure to comply with the measure’s requirements, except when injuries resulted from self-defense.

The Oregon Supreme Court approved the ballot title for the measure on Monday, despite several legal challenges filed by representatives of groups including the National Rifle Association and the Oregon Firearms Federation.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.

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