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Banning Guns at the Ballot Box

Friday, June 8, 2018

When gun control activists put firearm transfer bans on the ballot under the guise of “universal background checks”in Washington, Nevada, and Maine, they argued that this was just "common sense", and they weren't trying to ban guns. While we knew this was false at the time, the current push for anti-gun ballot initiatives in several states is proving that point.

In Oregon, citizens are allowed to petition to put on the ballot an initiative that would let voters directly establish state law. To that end, gun-ban proponents in the Beaver State have filed Initiative Petition 43, which seeks to establish a ban on some of the most commonly-owned rifles, handguns, shotguns, and ammunition magazines. The firearms and magazines being targeted are those that most gun owners consider to be the best option for personal protection. 

Likely hoping to exploit the raw, emotional response to the horrific tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida, this initiative seeks to ban all semi-automatic rifles that fall under its broad definition of “assault weapon.” It goes even further than the failed federal “assault weapon”ban of 1994, which banned firearms based on having two randomly selected cosmetic features. Initiative Petition 43 would dictate that one cosmetic feature, such as a folding or telescoping stock, warrants a rifle or shotgun being banned. 

The initiative would also reinstate the failed federal restriction on detachable magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. Those in possession of these magazines, or newly banned “assault weapons,” would have to surrender them, remove them from the state, transfer them to a licensed dealer, destroy them, or register them within 120 days of passage of the initiative.

While the provisions regarding rifles, shotguns, and magazines are bad enough, the measure’s treatment of handguns is egregious and in direct violation of the Supreme Court’s decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The initiative would ban virtually any semi-automatic handguns commonly used for personal protection. 

The initiative's language would ban any “semiautomatic pistol . . . that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.” Because nearly all of the most commonly available pistols used for self-defense have magazines available with capacities over 10 rounds, the initiative would amount to a near absolute ban on semi-automatic pistols. Twice the Supreme Court has held this type of broad prohibition on handguns unconstitutional, yet gun control proponents continue to seek such laws in direct contravention of our constitutional rights.

Unfortunately, Oregon is not the only place where gun-ban advocates are trying to use state initiative procedures to ban guns.

In Florida, anti-gun members of the Constitution Revision Commission attempted to promote adding numerous gun restrictions to the state Constitution, including their version of an “Assault Weapons” ban, as well as most semi-automatic rifles. Fortunately, this effort failed, the proponents are already talking about pushing a ballot initiative in 2020.

Gun control proponents will likely claim that their public polling shows overwhelming support for these measures, but as we saw in Washington, Nevada, and Maine, when voters are informed of the actual implications of these initiatives their support is not so “overwhelming.” Even though proponents of the initiatives significantly outspent NRA thanks to near limitless funding from Michael Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety, the initiatives in Washington and Nevada passed by narrower margins than expected and voters in Maine rejected Everytown’s initiative.

Many states have voter-driven initiative processes, so we should not be surprised if similar efforts appear across the country. Thanks to millions in funding from Bloomberg and other wealthy gun-control supporters, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action will keep pushing attacks on the Second Amendment by trying to confuse voters at the ballot box. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to support these efforts through misleading news and inflammatory, inaccurate reporting.

While we will never be able to match the tens of millions that Everytown and others spend to put gun-control proposals on the ballot, we have something that gun-control proponents can only dream of: the five million members of the NRA and 120 million American gun owners. Together, we can defeat them by voting “no” at the ballot box.


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