Pending potential legal setbacks, the referendum will go into effect on Dec. 8 and be implemented by Jan. 15, 2023, creating restrictive, new gun control laws that will, among other things, impose more rigorous background checks and require a permit-approval process for every gun purchase.
“Gun sales have exploded since the passage of measure 114,” Jeani Durkheimer with Northwest Armory. “We’ve seen rushes in the past when they’ve proposed various changes in laws but not to this level.”
Data from the Oregon State Police Firearms Instant Check System, which conducts background checks every time someone attempts to buy a gun from a federally licensed Oregon gun dealer, show that the daily number of background check requests in the state has grown from roughly 849 per day before the general election to 4,092 per day since the election — an increase of nearly 382%.
“[The Firearms Instant Check System] unit has been working through these extreme firearms request volumes and will continue to process them as quickly as possible,” OSP said in response to the increase.
If passed, the law states that the permitting process will be handled by local law enforcement agencies. This condition has generated strong criticism from some of Oregon’s rural sheriff’s offices following the election. In Southern Oregon, Lake County Sheriff Michael Taylor has vowed not to enforce Measure 114 for otherwise law-abiding citizens. He is also encouraging gun buyers to purchase their desired weapons as soon as possible
“If anyone is planning on purchasing a firearm, better get it done, there will be a huge rush of gun sales in the next couple of weeks as people try to get guns before the measure takes effect,” Taylor said on the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “The number of background checks is already high, but it will skyrocket. Whatever background checks are in the queue on Dec. 8 will simply stop. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing measure 114 unless you are arrested for a crime involving a firearm.”
Measure 114 puts a limit on magazines to 10 rounds. It also requires someone to have a permit to buy a gun, after completing a safety course in addition to the background check.
The permits are issued by local law enforcement and with questions about where funding is coming from and about what the permit system will be like, Durkheimer is concerned these booming sales may bust.
“There’s nothing in place to issue that permit so I don’t know how you implement that. If you are saying you can’t buy a gun but you can’t get a permit, that’s an infringement on your Second Amendment rights,” she said.
The rush to purchase guns before the Dec. 8 cutoff has created a mounting backlog of background check requests for OPS to process. According to FCIS data, the average number of delayed requests was close to zero between 2017 and 2020. That number shot up to about 7,000 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, before dropping back to near-normal numbers in the spring of 2022.
The number of delayed background checks shot up again in July, when it was announced that enough signatures had been collected for the then-proposed gun control measure to qualify for the November ballot. Following the election, the number of delayed background requests has soared to well over 13,000. If OSP is unable to complete a background check within 30 minutes of receiving a request, state law requires the agency to notify the gun dealer and provide an estimate for when the background check is expected to be completed.
OSP said that its FICS unit is working to process the backlogged background checks from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The office is closed twice a year: on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Approximately 63% of the background check requests submitted to the FICS in November have been approved, the agency said.
While local law enforcement officials like Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash are taking to social media to share their skepticism about how a permitting process will be implemented, OSP said that it is working closely with the Department of Justice, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police to create a functional system.
“I’m frustrated just like many of you are,” Ash said on Nov. 14. “I fully expect legal challenges to be filed in our court systems regarding some or all of the components of Measure 114. As the measure currently stands, after January 15, 2023, a permit will be required by law to purchase a firearm in Oregon. Unfortunately, this requires the state to create infrastructure that does not yet exist and coordination among numerous government entities with different administrative structures. In spite of these obstacles, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office is working in collaboration with fellow law enforcement agencies to include the Baker City Police Department to ensure people have the ability to obtain a permit to purchase firearms.”