Opinion: Oregon should follow New Zealand’s lead on gun reforms

Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson, Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana and Rev. Alcena Boozer

We mourn with our Muslim sisters and brothers the great loss of life in the horrific shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our faith communities have long stood together united in love to overcome violence and hate. We take solace in the actions of their prime minister for immediately taking steps to fix weaknesses in their gun laws – in particular, banning military-style semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines. And we hope that our own leaders in Oregon can find inspiration and show the same courage to protect Oregonians.

Two bills of enormous importance are before the Oregon Legislature: House Bill 3223, which seeks to regulate and restrict assault weapons and House Bill 3265, which aims to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines. If these measures sound familiar, they should. Our coalition had sought to put these same questions before voters last year but ran out of time before we could get it on the ballot. How we got here, however, shows why this effort will succeed.

One year ago, just weeks after the devastating mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a group of faith leaders came together to take action, and to let our youth know they are not alone. A grassroots organization, Lift Every Voice Oregon, was formed and we took on the challenge of getting these measures on the November 2018 ballot.

Oregonians in every part of the state - rural, suburban and urban settings – joined in because of the courageous leadership of our students. College and high school students underwent training to gather signatures. Contributions came in, ranging mostly from $5 to $100. While we ultimately were unable to secure a ballot title in time to start collecting signatures, we declared that we would not stop until victory for the wellbeing of our youth was won.

So, we turned our attention to the Legislature, crafting these two bills for the 2019 session. Our wording reflects the most reasonable legal concepts adopted in seven other states in the years before Parkland. All have been challenged in court and all have been upheld.

This is not a dispute about the Second Amendment. It is about public safety and public health. HB 3223 and HB 3265 do not confiscate weapons. Rather, they call for common sense registration of currently owned assault weapons, modification of large-capacity magazines and the banning of future sales of both. They are supported by those who own guns and those who do not, by people of faith and people of good will. As responsible adults, we must consider and make laws that protect the wellbeing of our young people, as we did with seat belts.

Why assault weapons and large capacity magazines? The majority of mass shootings have involved these military-style weapons, created only for the battlefield, not for our communities. The physical cost of human life is appalling, but the health implications for our young, and quite frankly all of us, go much deeper.

We know the death and injury these weapons can inflict. Think also about the emotional impact of these weapons used in school shootings. The current generation of students, from preschoolers to high school seniors, has never lived without lockdown drills and the fear of gun violence in their schools, shopping malls and houses of worship. The social impact is equally great as we debate how to make our schools safer for students and teachers. As spiritual leaders, we know the cost is profound if we allow lives to be endangered and taken. We need to be bold and responsible enough to act.

To those who oppose these bills, we respect you and your freedom to speak out. As faith leaders, we will continue to take the high ground of respect and love for every person, including those who passionately disagree. We call upon you as fellow residents of this beautiful state to do the same. Intimidation, anonymous threats and hateful messages directed at us, our elected leaders or anyone else have no place in our great democracy that we all cherish.

Together with a network of thousands, we are saying the time to act is now and we expect our Legislature to do so by hearing and, then, passing these bills. When the governor signs these bills into law, it will be the youth of Oregon, who have called us all to be our better selves, who will fill her office and cheer. Yes, Oregon, the time to lift every voice for our children’s wellbeing is now. Contact your legislators and tell them you agree.

Oregonian: Brown, Buehler far apart on gun control

Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive   August 22, 2018

Gun control is a top political issue in Oregon, and one on which Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and her Republican challenger, Rep. Knute Buehler, differ widely.

The Oregon Legislature has signed off on significant gun regulations in three of the last four sessions. It expanded background checks, barred domestic abusers from owning guns and created a process to seize firearms from people who may harm themselves or others. Brown signed all of those bills; Buehler voted for half of them.

Brown’s gun control record earned her the backing of New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who donated $250,000 to her 2016 gubernatorial campaign after she announced she’d work to pass three weapons bills, including one that would ban high-capacity magazines.

The governor delivered on one of those promised laws this year, when she got the Legislature to close the “boyfriend loophole,” a technicality that left some intimate partners out of Oregon’s existing domestic abuser gun ban. Buehler was one of three House Republicans who voted for the bill, which secured a vote the day after a school shooting left 17 dead in Florida.

“I understand and appreciate Oregon’s long tradition of gun ownership for self-protection and recreation,” Buehler said last week. “I’ve also broken from my party. … I feel strongly that survivors of domestic abuse, women and children, shouldn’t live in fear from their abuser.”

Brown had been in office seven months when a gunman killed nine people and injured eight more at Umpqua Community College. She refers to the mass shooting near Roseburg as a formative experience.

“We must use every single tool that we have to ensure that our students’ campuses are safe,” she said.

In 2015, Brown signed Oregon’s original gun ban for domestic abusers and a law that expanded background checks to all gun sales. A third measure she approved, allowing a judge to take guns away from people who may harm themselves or others through so-called “extreme risk protection” orders, was written by Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas.

Buehler voted against the background check expansion and extreme risk protection orders, citing concerns the protection orders didn’t provide adequate due process to gun owners. He voted for the initial law banning guns and ammunition for domestic abusers in 2015.

Earlier this year, Portland-area clergy attempted unsuccessfully to get an initiative on the ballot that would have defined many semiautomatic guns as assault weapons and banned their sale in Oregon. Another group, including family members of the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting victims, tried to qualify an initiative that would have required gun owners to secure the weapons with trigger locks or other devices. It also ran out of time to qualify. Now, activists hope the Legislature will consider those ideas next year.

Catholic Sentinel: Faith-inspired gun measure will need to wait

Ed Langlois, of the Catholic Sentinel   August 6, 2018

Backers of a proposed Oregon ballot measure to outlaw sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have been forced to wait for a later election or move to persuading lawmakers. 

The Oregon Supreme Court on June 27 rejected the ballot language as too vague and sent it back to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. That left advocates with too little time to collect the needed 88,000 valid signatures by July 6. 

In addition to banning sales, the measure would have required current owners to register the guns within 120 days or face felony charges.

“It’s a very fair approach to allow weapons for personal safety and weapons for sports and at the same time keep our kids safe,” said Lynette Pierson, a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish who is promoting the measure. “It goes right to our Catholic principles, the call to the common good. Our faith demands that we promote peace in a world of conflict.”

The Oregon Catholic Conference, public policy arm of the Archdiocese of Portland and the Diocese of Baker, did not take a position on the proposed measure but may reconsider if it qualifies for a later ballot or appears as a bill in the Oregon Legislature.

“There is no reason to have an assault rifle,” said Todd Cooper, director of the conference. “At the same time, the measure can be seen as a slippery slope.” Cooper said the conference must take into account the needs of Catholics across the state, including those in rural areas who are wary of gun control.

Oregonian: Oregon 'assault weapons' ban won't be on the ballot this year, supporters look to 2020

By Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive     June 28, 2018

Oregon voters won't decide whether to ban the sale of certain semiautomatic guns and large capacity magazines in November after all.

Supporters of an initiative that would have prohibited the sale and manufacture of such weapons in Oregon conceded on Thursday that they had run out of time to gather signatures by the July 6 deadline. Gun rights and hunting groups had appealed the ballot title, and the state Supreme Court ordered changes.

Under Initiative Petition 43, Oregonians who wanted to keep their existing affected firearms would have been required to pass a criminal background check and register with the state.

Portland-area clergy led the effort, and on Thursday morning, Pastor W. J. Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church said the "Lift Every Voice" campaign will instead set its sights on the 2020 ballot.

"Our lightning speed as a team was just too fast for our opponents," Knutson said during a news conference. "They started flopping all over the field with every legal maneuver they could imagine. Oh, they are exhausted by the rightness of our cause. And we are just getting going."

Knutson said members of the campaign hope to qualify at least one gun control initiative for the 2020 election, to put pressure on lawmakers to pass similar legislation when the 2019 legislative session begins in January.

OPB: Oregon Gun-Control Proposal Might Be Out Of Time To Make Ballot

by Dirk VanderHart  OPB June 27, 2018

The lone gun-control measure vying for the November ballot has likely run out of time.

The Oregon Supreme Court Wednesday announced it would not certify ballot language for Initiative Petition 43, a proposed ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons in Oregon. Instead, the court referred draft ballot language back to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for revision, finding substantial flaws in her office’s last attempt.

It’s likely the final straw for the faith-backed Lift Every Voice coalition, which had been counting on a network of hundreds of volunteers across the state to collect more than 88,000 valid signatures in a week or less. The deadline for submitting signatures is July 6.

Without certified ballot language, the campaign can’t begin collecting signatures. And with the matter back before the Attorney General’s office, it’s unclear an adequate title could even be crafted by July 6.

“That’s not what we wanted by any means,” said Rev. Mark Knutson, one of the chief petitioners behind the initiative, when OPB informed him of the ruling Wednesday morning. “We really wanted it now for our children’s sake.”

Oregonian: Oregon Supreme Court orders changes to ballot title for initiative to ban 'assault weapons'

By Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive   June 27, 2018

The Oregon Supreme Court ordered changes Wednesday to the ballot title of an initiative that would ban the sale of many semiautomatic guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines in the state. 

It's a setback for the Portland-area clergy behind Initiative Petition 43, who have just over a week to gather the 88,184 signatures necessary to get it on the November ballot. The signature deadline is July 6, and they cannot begin gathering signatures until the ballot title is finalized.

In an opinion issued Wednesday morning, the court said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum must revise the summary of the initiative that would be put before voters in November. 

Fox 12: Oregon Supreme Court says title of proposed gun control ballot must be re-written

Reporter Johnathan Hendricks     June 27, 2018


A gun control measure in Oregon that backers were hoping will end up on the November ballot was hit with a pretty big hurdle on Wednesday. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled the title for proposed ballot measure 43 needs to be re-written.

The NRA and Oregon Hunters Association challenged the measure's title arguing terms like assault weapons and high capacity magazines would mean different things to different voters.

"As described above, petitioners argue that, if a commonly understood meaning of “assault weapons” exists, it refers to military-style weapons, not semiautomatic weapons with the types of features described in IP 43 (many of which, they contend, are “standard”). We cannot say whether that is so, but we do agree (as does the Attorney General) that different voters reasonably could draw different meanings from the term “assault weapons” some might think that it refers to only military-style weapons; some might think that it refers to the types of weapons that are described in IP 43; and some might think that it refers to an even more broad group of weapons," the courts brief reads.

AP: Court delay blocks second Oregon gun measure

By TOM JAMES     Jun. 27, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court has temporarily blocked an initiative that would ban the sale of some semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines just over a week before a key deadline, likely stopping it from making the November ballot.

Earlier arguments over Initiative Petition 43 had been fast-tracked. But Wednesday’s ruling triggered a statutory timeline that leaves at most one day for supporters to gather more than 88,000 signatures, and sets it up to become the second prominent gun control proposal to fail after court delays in the state this year.

OPB: With Court Ruling Expected, Oregon Gun Ban Advocates Will Try To Make History

by Dirk VanderHart  June 26, 2018

With the window for submitting signatures closing fast, backers of a ban on semi-automatic, military-style weapons in Oregon might finally win permission to begin petitioning voters this week.

The Oregon Supreme Court has announced plans to issue an opinion Wednesday on final ballot language for Initiative Petition 43. That’s one of the final hurdles faith-based backers of the petition face before they begin a frantic push to collect more than 88,000 signatures by July 6.

“We are ready,” the Rev. Mark Knutson, one of the chief petitioners behind the ban, said Tuesday. “We have well over 1,000 people who’ve trained, there’s another 800 who’ve accessed our training.”

AP: Frustrated AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

LINDSEY TANNER, Associated Press June 12, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) — With frustration mounting over lawmakers' inaction on gun control, the American Medical Association on Tuesday pressed for a ban on assault weapons and came out against arming teachers as a way to fight what it calls a public health crisis.

At its annual policymaking meeting, the nation's largest physicians group bowed to unprecedented demands from doctor-members to take a stronger stand on gun violence — a problem the organizations says is as menacing as a lethal infectious disease.

Oregonian: Oregon Supreme Court decision could help gun control initiative

Posted June 08, 2018 | Updated June 11, 2018

By Hillary Borrud, The Oregonian/OregonLive

An Oregon Supreme Court decision on Friday could fast-track efforts to get a gun-control initiative on the ballot.

The Portland-area clergy backing the effort to ban the sale of many semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines had worried that the state’s ballot title appeals process would leave them with little time to qualify for the November election.

Opponents of the proposal known as Initiative Petition 43 had appealed to the Supreme Court to modify the ballot title, saying the use of such terms as "assault weapons" and "large capacity magazines” is misleading.

But on Friday, the Supreme Court denied their requests for oral arguments – a decision that will likely speed up the court’s review of the ballot title. The court must sign off on the official ballot title before backers can begin gathering signatures.

OPB: Oregon Initiative To Curb Semi-Automatic Guns Can Still Qualify For Ballot, Backers Say

by Jeff Mapes; June 8, 2018

Sponsors of a controversial initiative to ban the sale of many semi-automatic weapons in Oregon are still hoping to qualify for the ballot even though they will at best have only two weeks to gather signatures.

“If we get the go, we’re prepared to get 120,000 signatures in 10 days or less,” said Mark Knutson, a Lutheran pastor from Portland and a chief sponsor of the initiative.

AP: Oregon Supreme Court expedites gun-control dispute

By ANDREW SELSKY     Jun. 08, 2018

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s Supreme Court set tight deadlines Friday in a dispute that has stalled a proposed ballot measure to restrict assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in the state. 

The court denied all requests for oral arguments and directed the attorney general to file by June 18 a single response to five petitions to the court from gun-rights activists. And it told the five petitioners to reply by June 21.

Backers of the statewide Initiative Petition 43 have until July 6 to gather 88,000 verified signatures from voters to put their measure on the November ballot. They can’t start gathering the signatures before the court rules on the arguments by opponents who say the ballot language is misleading.

There’s no deadline for the court to issue its decision, but Friday’s order accelerates the process while still giving the parties the opportunity to submit their arguments to the court, said Phil Lemman of the Oregon Judicial Department.

AP: Oregon's High Court to Consider Proposed Gun-Control Measure

June 6, 2018

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.

Observer: 'Now is the Time to Act'

Moved by gun violence, faith leaders call for action

Dana Lynn Barbar, Portland Observer | 4/3/2018

Protecting children and teenagers from gun violence is the driving force of a new grass roots effort to regulate semiautomatic weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in Oregon.

A diverse group of faith leaders in Portland are working together to gather signatures for a proposed ballot measure that if approved by voters would require that existing semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines be registered by their owners, as well prohibit the future sale and transfer of these weapons and magazines statewide.

Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson, senior pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in northeast Portland, is chairing the ballot initiative campaign, along with chief petitioners Rev. Alcena Boozer, director emerita at St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in northeast Portland and a former principal at Jefferson High School, and Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel. Imam Muhammad A. Najieb, director of the Muslim Community Center of Portland, is campaign treasurer.

At this time, the initiative is called “Lift Every Voice, Oregon Measure 43.” If the required number of signatures are gathered and approved, it will be on the ballot in November.