SALEM, OR — When Raevahnna Richardson spotted a woman outside a library in Salem, Oregon, collecting signatures for a gun safety initiative, she walked over to her and added her name.
“I signed it to keep our children safe, because something has to change. I have a child who is going to be in first grade this coming season, and I don’t want her to be scared at school. said Richardson.
“To keep our children safe.” It’s something that worries so many parents across the United States after the horrific massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. The mass shooting gave a huge boost to Oregon’s ballot initiative, with the number of volunteers doubling to 1,200 and signatures increasing exponentially, organizers said.
With the U.S. Senate unlikely to pass a “red flag” bill and the majority of state legislatures either taking no action on gun safety in recent years, or moving in the opposite direction, the activists see voter-driven initiatives as a viable alternative.
“To get really strong action right now, it’s going to take people in a democracy exercising that democratic right to stand on the ballot and have it voted on,” said the Reverend Mark Knutson, a chief petitioner for the Oregon. initiative.
Oregon appears to be the only US state with a gun safety initiative underway for the 2022 election, according to Sean Holihan, state legislative director for Giffords, an organization dedicated to saving lives from violence. army.
If the initiative passes and passes, anyone wishing to acquire a firearm will first need to obtain a license, valid for five years, from local law enforcement after completing safety training, Passed a criminal background check and met other requirements. The measure would ban ammunition magazines larger than 10 rounds except for current owners, law enforcement, and the military, and state police would create a firearms database.
The age range of those collecting signatures from registered voters ranges from middle schoolers to 94, Knutson said. Volunteers sit in a room at the Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, sorting through baskets of envelopes containing mailed signatures.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has already spoken out strongly against the initiative, stating on its website that “these anti-gun citizens are going after YOU, the respectful gun owners.” Oregon laws, and YOUR weapons. They don’t care about the Constitution, your right to own and bear arms, or your divine right to self-defense.
Knutson says the effort in Oregon “can start to give hope across the country that others are doing the same.”
Voters in two neighboring predominantly Democratic states have already passed gun safety ballot measures.
In 2018, Washington state voters approved restrictions on buying and owning firearms, including raising the minimum purchase age to 21, adding background checks and increased waiting times. In 2016, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure allowing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders to remove an individual’s access to firearms.
In 2016, California voters passed a measure banning possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring some people to pass background checks to purchase ammunition.
That same year, Maine voters narrowly rejected a proposal to require background checks before a gun sale.
Daniel Webster, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University, said ballot initiatives “are a great way to advance gun policies that are popular.”
“But honestly, I don’t know how much one state’s ballot initiative affects the likelihood that other states will act,” he added.
Oregon’s initiative must provide at least 112,080 registered voter signatures — verified by the secretary of state’s office — by July 8 to be on the ballot, Knutson said. This week, more than 52,000 signatures were received by the campaign. Knutson already plans to have teenagers travel to the secretary of state’s office in Salem on school buses to deliver boxes of signature sheets.
Meanwhile, pro-gun activists are also using ballot initiatives to protect what they see as their Second Amendment rights.
In 2020, Montana voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons and limit their power to regulate the carrying of unconcealed weapons.
Iowa voters in November will decide whether to add gun rights language to their state’s constitution, after majority Republicans in the Legislature last year passed a resolution that included on the ballot paper, no signature being required.
Opponents said if the Iowa measure passes, courts could end up overturning restrictions on background checks for firearms, permits required to carry a firearm and prohibitions on possessing firearms. firearms by those convicted of a crime.
An initiative in Nebraska, one of many launched this year, would allow weapons to be carried concealed or open in public places. And in Washington state, an initiative would ban state and local governments from placing limits on the purchase and possession of firearms.