Oregon faith leaders announce initiative petition to regulate some firearms

Rev. Dr. W.J. Mark Knutson, chair of Lift Every Voice Oregon, stands with about 40 faith leaders to announce an initiative petition to put new gun laws on the 2020 ballot on Monday in Portland.

SALEM — Lift Every Voice Oregon, a group of Oregon faith leaders, filed a package of initiative petitions with the Secretary of State on Monday hoping to get new gun laws on the November ballot. The group tried to get a ballot initiative banning certain semiautomatic firearms on the ballot in 2018 but were stymied by legal challenges.

The new initiative effort applies to certain semiautomatic firearms. If passed, it would raise the minimum age to purchase those firearms to 21, tighten background check requirements, institute a five-day waiting period on new purchases and ban magazines over 10 rounds.

“We have to get legislation before this state for people to vote on to say ‘Yes, this is not the kind of weaponry we want in our civil society,’” said Reverend Dr. W.J. Mark Knutson, the chair of Lift Every Voice Oregon and pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland.

The group next has to collect 1,000 signatures in order to send the initiative petition to the state Attorney General and Supreme Court for the ballot title and definition. Assuming the petition title is approved, proponents would then need to collect more than 112,000 signatures to put the initiative before voters next fall.

The group is expecting legal challenges along the way.

“It’s gonna be a battle,” Knutsen said. “We’re ready for that.”

As part of their legal strategy, Lift Every Voice filed three initiative petitions instead of just one. IP 60 includes the increased minimum age, background check changes, waiting period, and large-capacity magazine ban. IP 61 includes everything except the high-capacity magazine ban and IP 62 is only the high-capacity magazine ban.

But even if the petition passes it’s not clear how effective the law would be. The definition of “assault weapon” has proven difficult to pin down in any meaningful way. Legislation often focuses more on appearance rather than features which substantively impact a firearm’s lethality.

The definition in IP 60 is similar to language in other states like California that  have attempted to regulate assault weapons only to have manufacturers tweak their designs to comply with the law without changing the firearm’s function.

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