PORTLAND, Ore. — A proposed ballot measure that would restrict ownership of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines wound up in the Oregon Supreme Court after a gun rights proponent on Wednesday petitioned for a review of the ballot title, saying it was politically charged and deceptive.
The state's high court received the review one day before the deadline, said Phillip Lemman of the Oregon Judicial Department. The topic has become incendiary amid a flood of school shootings, many of them carried out with AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles.
Backers of the statewide initiative told a news conference in a church in Portland, Oregon, they are ready to launch a statewide campaign to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot as soon as the court finishes its deliberations.
"We want to move forward and give Oregonians the chance to vote," said Pastor Mark Knutson of the Augustana Lutheran Church, one of the three chief petitioners. "We are ready. As an organization we are building tremendous capacity throughout the state to get the 88,000 signatures that are required in the time that we are given, by July 6."
The campaigners are counting on the participation of youth, who protested across the nation to demand stricter gun laws, to help gather signatures, and on places of worship.
In his request to the Supreme Court for a review, gun rights advocate Roger Beyer said the ballot language "uses the politically charged and emotionally laden words, 'assault weapons,' and 'large capacity magazines.' The description is also misleading, argumentative, and deceptive because it implies the measure applies only to a limited and belligerent group of 'assault weapons' gun owners."
The proposed measure, known as Initiative Petition 43, would go before voters in the November election if enough verified signatures are collected in time. If on the ballot, a "yes" vote would require registration with the Oregon State Police of "assault weapons," defined to include certain semi-automatic rifles or pistols with a detachable magazine; pistol or rifles with a fixed magazine holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and certain semi-automatic shotguns; and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
Background checks would also have to be conducted. Weapons would have to be disposed of if they're not registered. The attorney general's office on May 23 issued its review, edit and approval of the ballot initiative's caption, statement and summary. But Beyer had issues with it.
"A fair read of IP43 leaves only one reasonable impression as to its major effect and intended purpose, and that is to criminalize the possession, purchase or transfer of most semi-automatic firearms and their magazines," Beyer wrote in his petition with the Supreme Court.
In the press conference in Knutson's church, Knutson joined with a rabbi and a Muslim imam to announce that from Friday, June 29 through Sunday, July 1, a signature-gathering campaign will be launched at churches, synagogues and mosques around the state — if the Supreme Court has finished assessing the request for review.
State law says the court's review "shall be conducted expeditiously" so the signatures can be collected.
The Supreme Court can either approve the certified ballot title as-is, rewrite it or order the attorney general to make changes.