Supreme Court: Ballot title for gun control measure needs changes

The Oregon Supreme Court has ordered changes in a proposed ballot title for a ballot measure that would ban certain semiautomatic weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds..

SALEM — The Oregon Supreme Court on Wednesday said substantial changes are needed to ballot title language for an initiative petition that would restrict ownership of certain firearms.

That leaves supporters of the measure with negligible time to gather the 88,184 signatures they need by July 6 to qualify for the November ballot.

The Attorney General has five business days to modify the title, and then other parties have five more days to file objections. Then the court rules again.

Chief Petitioner Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson, of Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, says his group — the Lift Every Voice campaign — is evaluating the court’s decision and plans to make an announcement about their campaign efforts Thursday morning.

The ballot title is essentially a description of the measure that contains a short caption, results of a “yes” vote and a “no” vote, and a summary. Multiple challenges to the title were filed earlier this month.

Initiative Petition 43 would not only ban certain types of semiautomatic firearms and magazines with more than 10 rounds, but would also require people who already own those items to register them with the state police.

Going forward, Oregonians couldn’t buy those guns, and could only obtain them by way of inheritance.

The Oregon Supreme Court said the attorney general needed to change the caption to describe more precisely what types of guns and magazines would be banned under the measure, and that the registration exception applies only to those guns that people owned prior to the measure going into effect. Once the measure goes into effect, people could only obtain those guns legally by inheriting them.

Two other aspects of the measure required changes, the court said: the “yes” result statement needed to explain that an owner of a qualifying firearm would have to register it, or surrender, transfer or destroy it.

And the “no” result statement needed to explain that the law currently bans possession, not purchases, by some people, such as people with felony convictions, the court said.

Finally, the court said the summary has to state that the current owner has to take steps to register their firearm with the state or otherwise surrender, destroy or transfer it within 120 days of the law going into effect.

They also said that the summary should say that the measure would create a felony; and that it would limit where certain firearms could be used.

As of Tuesday, petition supporters were still moving forward, saying that they were ready to kick off immediately once the ballot title is changed and they get the go-ahead to collect signatures. They claim that more than 1,000 volunteers have been trained to gather signatures.

The campaign intended to focus on the weekend before Independence Day — they’re calling it a “Signature Sabbath” — as a key period in which to gather signatures. It’s unclear whether the petition will be approved for circulation by Friday, June 29.

Supporters of another gun control initiative, IP 44, which had the same signature deadline and would have imposed certain storage requirements for firearms, withdrew it from the November 2018 ballot last week, citing time constraints.

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