Firearm enthusiasts in Oregon are flocking to gun stores as they wait to find out whether a federal judge will delay the start of a strict permit-to-purchase law before Thursday’s deadline.
“The parking lot has been a disaster,” Northwest Armory owner Karl Durkheimer told G3 Box News. “The side streets around our place have been a disaster.”
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Measure 114 passed with 50.65% of the vote last month. It bans ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and mandates the creation of a permit-to-purchase system that includes fingerprinting and hands-on firearm training from an instructor who has been certified by law enforcement. The permits can cost up to $65 under the measure and last for five years with a new background check required for each gun purchase.
Judge Karin J. Immergut heard more than two hours of arguments Friday relating to the first lawsuit filed against the measure by the Oregon Firearms Federation, Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey and a gun store owner. The suit alleges that both the magazine capacity limit and permit-to-purchase requirement violate the Second Amendment.
The measure’s sponsors hope it will reduce violent crime, accidental deaths and suicides. Senior Assistant Attorney General Brian Simmonds Marshall argued in court documents that delaying the bill’s start date would “likely result in unnecessary deaths” and hinder Oregon’s efforts to “reduce the risk of a massacre within its borders.”
Immergut expects to make a decision early this week on whether the law should be delayed, according to Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein.
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There is much confusion over what will happen when the law takes effect Dec. 8. Gun store owners and local police have said the permit system will not be ready in time, but Oregon State Police tried to assuage those fears Friday afternoon in a press release that stated there would be a “manual paper process until new technical systems can be designed and implemented.”
“If there is not an injunction before the morning of the eighth, that will mean there will be no gun sales on the eighth to Oregonians,” Durkheimer said prior to OSP’s release.
He expected it could take a full year for sales to resume because OSP initially predicted the permit-to-purchase system wouldn’t begin until around January 2024, according to a fiscal estimate prepared earlier this year by a state committee.
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“Oregon has not yet even provided the necessary funding for, let alone set up the systems required to administer its new and onerous permitting scheme,” alleges an NRA-backed lawsuit filed late last week. “As of right now, there is no firearms training course that has been certified by the state, which means that no one can lawfully obtain a permit-to-purchase.”
Durkheimer believes the law is unconstitutional and will only impact law-abiding gun owners and not violent criminals.
“Controlling the tool is not going to change the human behavior of an evil person or a mentally deranged person,” Durkheimer told G3 Box News, adding that he’d rather see the money Oregon expects to spend on the permitting system directed toward mental health services.
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The family-run Northwest Armory has two Portland-area locations and has been in business since 1992. Firearm sales to Oregonians make up between 50%-60% of their business, Durkheimer said.
“We’re trying to do a business plan for, how do we maintain our employees and their health insurance and our 401(K) for one year with very limited retail sales?” Durkheimer said.
Fortunately for Northwest Armory, gross sales since Nov. 8 are the largest they’ve had in three decades of business as customers rush to buy guns and magazines before the ban takes effect, Durkheimer said.
OSP’s background check unit has seen “unprecedented volumes of firearms transactions” in the past month. State police received about 849 background check requests a day prior to the election, but that average skyrocketed to 4,092 requests per day immediately after voters approved Measure 114.
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Last Thursday, Durkheimer said there were more than 30,000 pending background checks. Anyone whose background check has not cleared by Dec. 8 will have to wait to obtain a permit, according to OSP.
No matter what Immergut decides, Durkheimer said his stores will be closed Dec. 8.
“We’ve been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day for a month,” he said. “We’re going to be closed for a couple of days to take a break and catch up.”