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Gun sale restriction group won't challenge initiative's ballot title

Coalition behind proposed measure worries that a prolonged fight could limit time to gather thousands of signatures.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP/EO MEDIA GROUP: CLAIRE WITHYCOMBE - Rev. W.J. Mark Knutston and other supporters of an initiative petition to ban certain semiautomatic weapons in Oregon spoke Wednesday morning at a press conference at Augustana Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland.Supporters of a statewide initiative to ban certain types of semiautomatic weapons in Oregon say they won't challenge the language in its ballot title.

The deadline to petition the Oregon Supreme Court to review the ballot title is Thursday, June 7. If the petitioners appealed the ballot title, they would have to notify the secretary of state's Elections Division by 5 p.m. Friday, June 8.

PMG/EO MEDIAThe initiative's ballot title was drafted by the state attorney general's office and summarizes the proposed measure's impacts and changes to state law. A prolonged court fight on the proposed ballot title could limit the amount of time the group has to collect signatures placing the measure on the November general election ballot.

Lift Every Voice Campaign, a coalition of faith leaders, is leading the charge to block the sale of some semi-automatic weapons with certain features, and weapons with magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. If the measure is successful, people who own those types of guns would have to register them with the Oregon State Police and submit to a background check.

Supporters of the petition are preparing to gather 88,184 valid signatures by July 6 to make it to the November ballot. Campaign leaders encouraged people who disagree with their efforts not to oppose the ballot title, either.

"We urge all citizens and any organizations, regardless of their position, to allow this issue to come before the public for a vote," said Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson, one of the chief petitioners, during a Wednesday, June 6, press conference. "It's time to end the delay tactics and legal maneuverings. Oregonians deserve the opportunity to vote on this matter immediately."

The group's hopes were dashed when, at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, Roger Beyer, an Oregon lobbyist whose clients include the National Rifle Association, filed a challenge in the Oregon Supreme Court to the ballot title, arguing that it doesn't comply with laws governing titles and uses "politically charged and emotionally laden words, 'assault weapons,' and 'large capacity magazines.' "

"The description is also misleading, argumentative, and deceptive because it implies the measure applies only to a limited and belligerent group of 'assault weapons' gun owners," according to Beyer's 33-page petition filed with the court. "To the contrary, IP 43 intends to create a new felony for anyone possessing most semi-automatic pistols, rifles, shotguns and their magazines."

He also argues that using the term "assault weapons" "does nothing to inform the electorate of the actual major effect" of the initiative petition.

The ballot title was certified by the attorney general's office May 23 after a voluminous response from the public, many of whom complained about the language in the initial version.