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Oregon judge extends restraining order on state’s permit-to-purchase gun law

Tuesday’s hearing in Harney County follows a week of contentious rulings around Oregon’s voter-approved Measure 114, which was previously set to take effect on Dec. 8.

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — A temporary restraining order against part of Oregon’s new gun restriction measure will remain in place for the foreseeable future until the state can fully implement its permit-to-purchase policy, a state judge ruled Tuesday.

“Any complete bar on the ability to secure a firearm would be unconstitutional even under strict scrutiny," said Harney County Judge Robert Raschio on Tuesday morning.

The order was also the precursor to several hours of oral arguments and witness testimonies about whether the judge should place a preliminary injunction against ballot Measure 114’s ban on high-capacity magazines. While Judge Raschio made no formal decision on that proposed injunction Tuesday, he said he would issue an opinion no later than Friday, Dec. 16 at noon.

Altogether, Tuesday’s court hearing marked an eventful day for gun advocates in Oregon, many of whom tuned-in to the district court’s live feed to witness the marathon hearing about why the judge should or should not issue a preliminary injunction against Oregon’s ballot Measure 114.

The voter-approved measure — narrowly passed in November — requires law enforcement-facilitated background checks and restrictions on owning and purchasing “high-capacity magazines” carrying over 10 rounds. The new law was initially set to go into effect on Dec. 8 but stalled due to both state delay and a 30-day stay issued by U.S. District Judge Karen Immergut on Dec. 6.

Gun Owners Foundation and Gun Owners of America, who are leading the lawsuit against the state for allegedly infringing on Oregon gun owner’s constitutional right to bear to arms, asked for the preliminary injunction. Last week, Judge Raschio granted the groups a temporary restraining order against the measure’s permit-to-purchase policy mere hours after Immergut’s order involving a separate lawsuit, which, together, placed two holds on the state’s measure before it could go into effect.

State attorneys Brian Marshall and Harry Wilson argued Tuesday that because the federal court acted before Raschio's restraining order and prevented any possible injury by staying the permit-to-purchase, the case presented is entirely hypothetical.

To this, Judge Raschio questioned if the permit-to-purchase went into effect today whether the state would have the means to implement the policy in full. Without such means, he said, the measure would effectively be an outright ban on the purchase of firearms.

The state argued that law enforcement is hindering the administrative gun permitting process from taking place, as members of law enforcement have not designated certified trainers to provide live fire demonstration.

“Sheriffs are going to follow the law, that’s what they’re required to do,” Raschio said. “Because they are law enforcement agents. They don’t get to pick and choose what they want to enforce.” Yet, if the law went into effect today, he noted, “Nobody could purchase a firearm.”

To that end, Judge Raschio ruled in favor of the gun groups on the temporary restraining order, stating he was convinced there would be irreparable harm to the constitutional right to bear arms if the order was lifted at this time.

It was a different story for the issue of magazine capacity, however, discussion of which occupied another six hours in court Tuesday.

Plaintiffs largely argued that by capping magazines to 10 rounds and including restrictions on the use of extenders and removable baseplates, the state has essentially made it impossible to purchase legal firearms in Oregon from gun manufacturers. To prove a point, attorney Tony Aiello called upon firearm dealer Ben Callaway as an expert witness, who said online vendors like MidwayUSA or Zanders Sporting Goods no longer ship firearms to Oregon if they can be modified to hold more than 10 rounds.

Yet, the real challenge for the groups was to prove that guns with a 10-round capacity or more were commonly used for self-defense in 1859, a requirement made by Oregon Supreme Court’s protection of the right to bear arms. But while expert witnesses from both sides of the injunction agreed that multi-shot firearms existed around that time, there was disagreement as to whether these weapons were of common use.

All in all, the defense objected to Judge Raschio’s temporary restraining order against the permit-to-purchase aspect of the measure and requested an additional hearing to take place on Dec. 23, 2022, at 10 a.m. to address provisions six through nine of Measure 114 regarding the “Charleston loophole.”

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