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Texas massacre spurs Oregon gun safety initiative

SALEM, Arch. – When Raevahnna Richardson spotted a woman standing outside a library in Salem, Oregon collecting signatures for a gun safety initiative, she went straight to her and added her name.

“I signed it to protect our children because something has to change. I have a kid who will be in first grade next season and I don’t want her to be scared at school,” Richardson said.

“To protect our children.” It’s something that so many parents in the United States are concerned after the horrific massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. This mass shooting added tremendous momentum to Oregon’s ballot initiative, with volunteer numbers doubling to 1,200 and signatures growing exponentially, organizers said.

It probably won’t work with the US Senate Red flag bill. and the majority of the state legislatures have done nothing on gun safety in recent years or in the opposite direction, activists see voter-driven initiatives as a viable alternative.

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“To take really strong action at this time, it takes people in a democracy exercising that democratic right to go to the polls and vote for it,” said Rev. Mark Knutson, one of the lead contenders of the Oregon Initiative.

If the initiative goes to a vote and is passed, anyone wishing to purchase a firearm would first have to obtain a five-year permit from local law enforcement after completing safety training, passing a criminal background check, and meeting other requirements. The measure would ban 10-round ammo magazines except for current owners, law enforcement and the military, and state police would create a firearms database.

The ages of those collecting signatures from registered voters range from middle school students to a 94-year-old, Knutson said. Volunteers settle into a room at the Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, sorting through baskets of envelopes with mailed signatures.

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The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has already strongly opposed the initiative and said further his website that “these anti-gun citizens are after YOU, the law-abiding gun owners of Oregon, and YOUR guns. They don’t care about the Constitution, your right to keep and bear arms, or your God-given right to self-defense.”

Oregon appears to be the only state in America with a gun safety initiative underway for the 2022 election, according to Sean Holihan, legislative director of Giffords, an organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence.

However, Knutson says the Oregon effort “may begin to inspire hope nationwide that others are doing the same.”

Voters in two mostly democratic neighboring states have already passed gun safety measures.

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In 2018, Washington state voters approved restrictions on firearm purchase and ownership, including raising the minimum age for purchase to 21, adding background checks and increasing waiting times. In 2016, voters there overwhelmingly approved a measure that empowers courts to issue extreme risk orders to bar a person’s access to firearms.

California voters passed a measure in 2016 that bans the possession of large-capacity ammo magazines and requires certain people to pass a background check to purchase ammo.

That same year, Maine voters narrowly rejected a proposal to require a background check before gun sales.

Daniel Webster, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University, said balloting initiatives are “a great way to advance a popular gun policy.”

“But I honestly don’t know how much a state’s ballot initiative affects the likelihood of other states taking action,” he added.

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The Oregon Initiative must provide at least 112,080 signatures from registered voters by July 8 — verified by the Secretary of State’s office — to vote, Knutson said. As of this week, the campaign has received more than 52,000 signatures. He is already planning to have teenagers take school buses to the State Department in Salem to take the leaflet boxes.

Meanwhile, pro-gun activists are also using ballot initiatives to protect what they see as their Second Amendment rights.

Iowa voters will decide this November whether to add gun law language to their state constitution after a majority of Republicans in the Legislature passed a resolution last year that put them to the vote without requiring a signature collection.

Opponents said if the Iowa measure is passed, courts could remove restrictions on gun background checks, required permits to carry a gun and a ban on gun ownership for people convicted of a felony.

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An initiative in Nebraska, one of several there this year, would allow concealed or openly carried weapons to be carried in public places. And in Washington state, an initiative would ban state and local governments from restricting the purchase and possession of firearms.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/10/texas-massacre-spurs-oregon-gun-safety-ballot-initiative/ Texas massacre spurs Oregon gun safety initiative

Sarah Y. Kim

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