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Oregon’s new high-capacity magazine ban still in court limbo

PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) – An Oregon judge on Tuesday extended an order blocking a key part of a tough new voter-approved gun law intended to curtail mass shootings, but did not immediately rule on its most controversial part – a ban on the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines.

Harney County Judge Robert Raschio let stand an earlier temporary restraining order that blocks the permit-to-purchase provision of the law narrowly approved by voters in Oregon in November. He also temporarily blocked another provision that prevents the sale of a gun until the results of a background check come back. Under federal law, a gun sale can proceed by default if the background check takes longer than three business days – the so-called Charleston loophole, because it allowed the assailant to purchase the gun used in a 2015 South Carolina mass shooting.

But after a full day of oral arguments, the judge did not rule on a motion to freeze a ban on gun magazines containing more than 10 rounds while the courts debate the law’s constitutionality. Raschio has until tomorrow to issue a ruling.

The lawsuit, filed by Gun Owners of America Inc, the Gun Owners Foundation and several individual gun owners, seeks to have the entire law placed on hold while it works its way through a spate of legal challenges. Unlike other lawsuits filed against Measure 114, this one specifically makes the claims under the Oregon Constitution, not the United States (US) Constitution. Burns, the Harney County town where the hearing took place, is more than 450 kilometres southeast of Portland in a rural and sparsely populated corner of the state.

Firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Oregon. PHOTO: AP

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, the state had agreed to delay the permit-to-purchase portion of the law until February 8 because of a lack of certified law enforcement to oversee the in-person gun handling training class that would be required.

“I’m going to continue the temporary restraining order with regards to the permit-to-purchase because I’m convinced that there’s irreparable harm to the right to bear arms,” Raschio said. The order will remain in effect “until I receive notice from defendants that they’re prepared to deploy a permit-to-purchase” system, he added.

Measure 114 requires a permit, criminal background check, fingerprinting and a hands-on training course for new firearms buyers that includes firing the gun with dry or live rounds. It also bans the sale, transfer or import of gun magazines over 10 rounds unless they are owned by law enforcement or a military member or were owned before the measure’s passage.

Those who already own high-capacity magazines can only possess them in their homes or use them at a firing range, in shooting competitions or for hunting as allowed by state law after the measure takes effect.

Gun sales and requests for background checks soared in the weeks since the measure was approved because of fears the new law would prevent or significantly delay the purchase of new firearms under the permitting system.

Multiple gun rights groups, local sheriffs and gun store owners have sued, saying the law violates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms and legal wrangling is likely to continue for months – or years – in this case and the others.

The law’s fate is being carefully watched by both gun rights advocates and those who want stricter limits on gun ownership. It would be one of the first to take effect after a US Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a New York law that placed limits on carrying guns outside the home.


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