Oregon voters may get the chance to weigh in on a pair of gun-related ballot measures in the November election, if proponents are able to gather enough valid signatures.
One of the measures, Initiative Petition 44, took a step toward the ballot this week, as proponents submitted 1,790 qualifying signatures. That allows the secretary of state's office to begin verifying the signatures and then to submit the measure to the state attorney general to begin the process of crafting a ballot title. (The other measure, Initiative Petition 43, would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Oregon.)
Initiative Petition 44, sponsored by a group called Oregonians for Safe Gun Storage, would establish a variety of requirements for gun owners, ranging from how firearms should be stored to what should happen when a gun is stolen.
“Voters were consistently enthusiastic about supporting safe gun storage and reducing gun violence,” said Paul Kemp, a chief petitioner for Oregonians for Safe Gun Storage, in a press release. “The fact that we were able to quickly gather almost twice the required number of sponsoring signatures gives us optimism about qualifying the measure and passing it in November.”
Well, sure: Nobody is against safe gun storage, and the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of gun owners do everything they can to keep their weapons safe. It's part of the responsibility that gun owners assume when they acquire firearms.
It's true, of course, that not every gun owner takes the necessary precautions to store and transport guns safely.
But here's the rub: This initiative petition, if eventually enacted by the voters, wouldn't do anything to change the habits of those irresponsible gun owners.
And unless law enforcement agencies suddenly figure out a way to inspect the households of law-abiding gun owners (a notion that creates considerable constitutional questions), the measure likely is unenforceable.
A copy of Initiative Petition 44 is included in the online version of this editorial, so you can read it for yourself. As written, the measure would require gun owners to:
• Store and transfer their weapons with trigger or cable locks engaged or in tamper-proof locked boxes.
• "Directly supervise" any minor who uses their gun.
• Be strictly liable for an injury caused by their gun, unless the injury results from self-defense or defense of another person.
• Report a stolen or lost firearm to law enforcement agencies within 24 hours of the time when the owner knew or "should have known" of the loss or theft.
If the measure is enacted by voters, violations of the law could be punished by fines of up to $2,000. It seems likely that the law would come into play only in the wake of incidents involving guns that were not properly stored, had been stolen or were being used by minors who weren't being directly supervised. (The measure, by the way, does not define "directly supervise.") In other words, it seems likely that the measure would be used only to slap additional charges against people who already would be facing serious criminal or civil allegations.
Proponents of the measure argue that improperly stored weapons have been used in shooting incidents, and that's true. But, again, if you're not storing your gun safely right now (and, obviously, you should be), the measure wouldn't change your mind. The bottom line is that the measure, if passed, wouldn't do anything to make anybody in Oregon even one bit safer.
The petitioners still have a long road ahead of them before the measure makes it to the ballot: They must gather more than 88,000 signatures from voters throughout the state.
We don't doubt that the measure is well-meaning. But it's the latest in a long line of attempts in Oregon to legislate common sense. Those don't work, and neither will Initiative Petition 44. (mm)