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Oregon Supreme Court shoots down gun control measure ballot title, suggests modifications

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, file)

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Supreme Court voted against the proposed ballot title for an assault weapons ban ballot initiative Wednesday. The court referred it to the attorney general for modification.

The proposed measure, known as Initiative Petition 43, would outlaw sales of assault weapons (defined here) and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. It would also require current owners of those items to register them within 120 days or face felony charges. They could also surrender it or render it permanently inoperable.

It would create a new Class B felony for “unlawful possession or transfer of an assault weapon or large capacity magazine” for any person who “manufactures, imports, possesses, purchases, sells or transfers any assault weapon or large capacity magazine.”

The only exceptions to the proposed initiative are government employees, armed forces members and peace officers acting within the scope of duty.

Anyone who chooses to keep one of the weapons or magazines outlined in the measure would need guarantee to Oregon State Police that he or she will only keep the item on his or her property, on someone else’s property with express permission, or on other permitted properties for certain purposes.

Wednesday morning, the state's highest court ruled that IP 43 needed to be re-written. The court said the ballot title did not comply with statutory requirements and needs modifications. The court also said the measure has broad definitions for “assault weapons” and “large capacity magazines” that could mean different things to individual voters.

IP 43 was spearheaded by Portland-area clergy who call this a public safety measure. They say a ban an these types of guns is needed to make schools and communities safer.

"Now is the time, this is the moment. We encourage everyone to join our Lift Every Voice campaign for IP 43 for the safety of our children and youth, and all Oregonians,” said the chief petitioners, led by Rev. Mark Knutson, a pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church.

Organizers declined interviews Wednesday, saying they are evaluating the court's decision. They will announced their plans moving forward at a press conference Thursday morning.

Conservatives and gun rights advocates are calling the ruling a victory.

"It kind of surprised me that a liberal court, like the Oregon Supreme Court, would say that the term, assault weapon or assault rifle, is politically loaded, which makes it unacceptable," said Lars Larson, a conservative commentator and host of the Lars Larson Show.

Larson expects the measure to be brought up again on the 2020 ballot. He is against the measure and says gun bans don't work.

"These kinds of things don't address the problem. the problem is bad guys with guns," said Larson. "If you take away all the guns from law abiding people who will obey a law, you haven't solved any problems. What you need to do is take them away from bad people who will commit crimes," Larson said.

Once the attorney general certifies the ballot measure title, supporters will need to gather more than 88,000 signatures by July 6 to get it on the November ballot.

READ MORE | Ceasefire Oregon, NRA agree assault weapons ban would bar nearly all semi-automatic sales

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