We would like to bring to your attention to the following information in the hopes of increasing awareness of Oregon gun violence prevention efforts.
There are two initiatives, IP 17 and 18 currently circulating for the 2022 General Election to reduce gun violence. Since the League has a policy of not taking a stand on initiatives before they reach the ballot, consider the following to be information only and not an official League endorsement.
The petitions are sponsored by the faith-based coalition Lift Every Voice Oregon and supported by a cadre of organizations and volunteers from across the state:
- Initiative Petition 17: Requires permit to acquire firearms; police maintain permit/firearm database; criminally prohibits certain ammunition magazines
- Initiative Petition 18: Prohibits manufacturing/possessing/transferring many semiautomatic firearms; criminal penalties; exceptions require firearm registration, restrict use
How is this related to the League?
The League of Women Voters holds positions on gun safety. Thus the Oregon efforts tie in to national focus on this matter.
Here’s an example of league action on gun control. On November 3rd, 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen, marking one of the first times that the Supreme Court addressed the scope of the Second Amendment since 2008. In September 2021, LWVUS, alongside the Leagues of Women Voters of New York and Florida, filed an amicus brief in this case.
The Impact of Gun Laws on Elections
The amicus brief argued that the New York law is in line with the types of regulations that are allowed under the Second Amendment because it protects the safety of the electoral process.
There is a long history of firearms being used to intimidate voters, especially voters of color. One Supreme Court Justice concluded that since the beginning of Reconstruction, there has been a “coordinated [system] of intimidation and violence” against voters of color. This history has continued with the wave of voter intimidation in the past few elections.
Throughout this history of attempts to intimidate voters, the League has fought to secure the safety of election sites. One example is during the 2020 election, when the League fought to protect voters from violence at polling locations in Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota (CAIR-MN) v Atlas Aegis. In this case, a private, armed mercenary organization was hired to monitor various polling sites to prevent “voter fraud.” A federal district court judge blocked the organization from deploying members to intimidate voters and issued a five-year consent decree that prevented actions like this from happening in the future.
Empirical evidence also shows that guns increase the likelihood of violence during disagreements, and as our amicus brief points out, “conflicts arise at every phase of the electoral process — between voters who support opposing candidates, between protesters and counter-protesters at politically charged rallies, or with election officials counting votes — voters frightful of mixing guns with unrest may limit voting-related activity or even sit out of the electoral process entirely.”
Ensuring the safety of the elections and the public’s safety while exercising their right to vote is critical. Laws like the ones that have been passed in New York are meant to ensure states and localities have the flexibility and freedom to create laws and regulations that best suit the needs of their communities while protecting the safety of sensitive areas like polling locations.
LWV will continue to support laws that protect and empower Americans within both our democratic system and daily life.
Who else is working on this issue?
The League of Women Voters works with the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action.
HERE is an example of their recent report on prevention of gun violence.