An interfaith group from Portland is trying to get a measure on the November ballot to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Oregon. The measure aims to require people to surrender their guns or change their freedom to use them as they can now.
The initiative is undoubtedly well-intended, and it brings up issues needing debate. But a sweeping proposal that effectively take people’s guns away from them is a mistake.
After all the shootings and mass shootings in the country, the question always is: What should be done to stop them? Sensible reforms designed to make existing laws work better make sense. It’s unconscionable, for instance, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t even study gun violence because of the Dickey Amendment.
This initiative, though, shows contempt for responsible gun owners. Any forced surrender of weapons will almost certainly get ugly. And it may even be unconstitutional to take guns away from people without just compensation.
Supporters need to gather about 80,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Basically, the proposal would ban all semi-automatics — rifles, pistols and shotguns. Magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds would also be banned. Owners of the weapons would be required to surrender them or render them inoperable. Gun owners might be able to keep them under certain conditions — a new registry, background check and restrictions on use and storage. No compensation is mentioned. Future sales of the weapons and magazines would be banned. Any violations would be a Class B felony. The law wouldn’t apply to police, the government or armed forces.
In sum, the initiative is going to do precisely what so many gun owners have feared and have been ridiculed for fearing: The government is coming to take their guns away. That the initiative characterizes this as a surrender of weapons or a restricted ability to use them will be a distinction without a difference. It might create dramatic movement in gun control; it would most certainly create dramatic recoil and pushback.
Most people use guns responsibly for hunting, target shooting or protection. Some just collect them. And most guns are never involved in a suicide or murder.
Want sensible gun control that gun owners will support? Push the Legislature to raise the purchase age to 21 for more powerful rifles. Examine banning high-capacity magazines. Tell Congress to strip out the Dickey Amendment. Don’t pass this initiative.
Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected to include an additional option for owners under the proposed ban.