Gun Rights Activists Fail To Force Referendum On Oregon 'Extreme Risk' Law

Oct 5, 2017
Originally published on October 5, 2017 11:31 am

Opponents of a new Oregon law aimed at keeping guns away from people judged to be at "extreme risk of violence" announced Thursday they weren't able to force the issue to the ballot.

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, said in a statement that his group fell far short of gathering enough signatures to hold a referendum on the new law. 

As a result, the new law can take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. It allows family or household members and law enforcement officials to seek an order from a judge to temporarily remove the gun rights of someone they believe poses an extreme risk of violence. Under one of these orders, police can remove guns from someone who refuses to surrender their firearms.

Washington state voters approved a similar law in 2016. Supporters say the "extreme risk" laws give people a chance to intervene in cases where someone appears to be at risk of suicide or lashing out against someone else.

"We're glad that this law will now go into effect in January and that family members and law enforcement will have another tool to prevent gun violence in Oregon," said Jake Weigler, spokesman for the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety.

Nearman said his group collected fewer than 25,000 signatures, far short of the 58,789 required by Thursday's deadline. If they had been successful in gathering enough signatures, the law would have been held in abeyance until voters passed judgment on the measure in the November 2018 general election.

"It wasn't for lack of support," Nearman said of his signature drive.  "We just simply did not have enough time."

Nearman blamed Gov. Kate Brown for waiting until Aug. 15 — five weeks after the end of the session — to sign the bill. That dramatically cut down the amount of time proponents had to gather signatures.

Nearman had said in an interview in late August that the referendum was a "huge uphill climb" but that he wanted to give opponents a chance to fight the new law, which they have characterized as a gun confiscation law. Financial disclosure reports showed that his effort attracted little financial support, raising just $6,200.

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