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Oregon voters to decide on one of the nation’s strictest gun control proposals

People hold signs reading "If You Care About Gun Violence, Sign Here" and "Lift Every Voice Oregon."
Gun control advocates, including local religious figures, rally outside the Oregon state Capitol in Salem.
(Andrew Selsky / Associated Press)
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Oregonians will decide in November whether people wanting to purchase a gun will first have to qualify for a permit, after one of the strictest gun control measures in the nation landed on the ballot.

“I was thrilled to hear the news and thankful for the 1,600 volunteers, of all ages,” the Rev. Mark Knutson, a chief petitioner of the initiative, said Tuesday.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s elections division determined Monday that the gun-safety campaign had delivered enough verified signatures of registered voters to put Initiative 17 on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

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Election officials said 131,671 signatures were validated, more than the minimum 112,080 needed.

Knutson said he had been heading to the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore., when he learned the news by phone. The pastor of a Lutheran church in Portland, Knutson said he responded with a prayer “for those who’ve been affected by gun violence in this nation, especially Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Park, recently” — references to mass shootings in upstate New York, Texas and Illinois, respectively.

The phenomenon of mass shootings created “a surge of volunteers” to gather signatures, Knutson said.

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“We didn’t go out seeking more volunteers because they came to us,” he said.

And it inspired more voters to sign the petition.

“I signed it to keep our kids safe, because something needs to change,” Raevahnna Richardson said after she signed the petition last month. “I have a kid that’s going to be in first grade this upcoming season, and I don’t want her to have to be scared at school.”

The measure would ban large-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds — except for current owners, law enforcement and the military — and require a permit to purchase any gun. To qualify for a permit, an applicant would need to complete an approved firearm-safety course, pay a fee, provide personal information, submit to fingerprinting and photographing, and pass a criminal background check.

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The state police would create a firearms database. Applicants would apply for the permit from the local police chief, county sheriff or their designees.

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The National Rifle Assn.’s Institute for Legislative Action has denounced the initiative, saying on its website that “these anti-gun citizens are coming after YOU, the law-abiding firearm owners of Oregon, and YOUR guns.”

Oregon appears to be the only state in America with a gun-safety initiative underway for the 2022 election, according to Sean Holihan, state legislative director for Giffords, an organization led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords dedicated to saving lives from gun violence.

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