Second Amendment

Oregon Considers Toughest Gun Restrictions in the Country

Five-round magazines and background checks for ammo purchases

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Allexxandar/Dreamstime.com

The Oregon Legislature isn't even in session yet, but already lawmakers are toying with some pretty draconian gun control proposals. That would include SB 501, which reads like a grab bag of all the latest gun control ideas, turned up to 11.

The bill would require a person to obtain a license in order to own a gun, keep said gun locked and secured in the home once acquired, and submit to a background check anytime they buy ammunition for it.

Speaking of ammunition, firearm owners would be limited to buying only 20 rounds every 30 days unless they're purchasing them at a gun range. That would allow you to go load four five-round magazines—the largest magazine allowed by SB 501.

There would also be a two-week waiting period for gun sales. Folks who don't report a stolen or missing gun in 24 hours would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, and could face up to 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Rob Wagner (D–Lake Oswego), but the specifics were crafted by Students for Change, a high school student group formed in the wake of the Parkland shooting to agitate for new gun control measures.

Wagner says the legislation may be a stretch, but, well, he just can't say no to kids.

"[It's] probably a long shot that something like this passes in whole cloth," he told the Statesman-Journal. "We told [Students for Change] that this is your movement, and we want to support you as representatives."

A companion bill has been introduced in the Oregon House by Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego).

Any number of its provisions would be vulnerable to constitutional challenges, says Michael Hammond, the legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America. He argues that some of the restrictions are so onerous as to effectively ban the use of common firearms.

"By going to a five-round magazine, you're dealing with a magazine that probably isn't amenable to most of the firearms that take magazines. So therefore, you are basically outlawing firearms that take magazines. I can't conceive that's constitutional," he tells Reason.

A provision of New York's SAFE Act that banned gun owners from having a magazine with more than seven rounds in it—passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting—was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

Hammond says it's a similar problem with the 20-round monthly purchase limit, which he says is so low as to effectively prevent a person from using their firearms.

Other provisions are on sounder constitutional footing, including requiring a license to own a firearm—a policy states like Illinois already have in place.

The extreme nature of SB 501 will likely make it a tough sell. Other gun control bills in the Oregon legislature might stand a chance, however. That would include HB 2251, which would ban those under 21 from owning semi-automatic rifles. (A similar policy passed by ballot initiative in neighboring Washington state with 59 percent of the vote in 2018.)

Another bill, HB 2505, would require firearms to have a trigger lock or be stored in a locked container.

The passage of any of these would be another step back for Oregon, which once had some of the country's saner gun laws, but has in recent years embraced everything from background check requirements for private gun transfers to extreme risk protection orders—which empower law enforcement to confiscate guns from otherwise law-abiding citizens who are feared to be a harm to themselves or others.

That is part of a wider polarization of gun laws in the country, where blue, rural states like Oregon and Vermont embrace stricter firearms regulations, while deep red states like Arizona or Kansas have allowed permitless concealed carry.