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Oregon Initiative To Curb Semi-Automatic Guns Can Still Qualify For Ballot, Backers Say

<p>AR-15s and AR-10s on display at the NRA convention in Dallas, Texas.</p>

Sue Ogrocki

AR-15s and AR-10s on display at the NRA convention in Dallas, Texas.

Sponsors of a controversial initiative to ban the sale of many semi-automatic weapons in Oregon are still hoping to qualify for the ballot even though they will at best have only two weeks to gather signatures.

“If we get the go, we’re prepared to get 120,000 signatures in 10 days or less,” said Mark Knutson, a Lutheran pastor from Portland and a chief sponsor of the initiative.

Knutson spoke after the Oregon Supreme Court released a schedule for considering a legal appeal of the ballot title written by the state’s attorney general. Backers can’t begin their petition drive until that ballot language is finalized.

July 6 is the deadline for gathering initiative signatures to qualify for the November ballot in Oregon.

The Supreme Court on Friday released a schedule for considering legal arguments in the ballot title challenge.  The court compressed the schedule by foregoing oral arguments. But, under the timeline laid out by the court, the earliest it could rule is June 22, just two weeks before the deadline.

State law calls on the court to act "expeditiously to ensure the orderly and timely circulation" of initiative petitions. But the court faces no firm deadline for making a decision.

Knutson said the interfaith alliance working on this ballot measure has been preparing for what would be the fastest petition drive in at least modern Oregon history.

He said his group plans to focus its signature-gathering voices on the weekend before the deadline, culminating in what he called “lift 100,000 voices Sunday.”

The group decided to introduce its initiative after 17 students and staff members were killed by a gunman on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The measure has drawn strong opposition from gun rights activists, who say it amounts to an attempt at mass gun confiscation.

The measure targets many semi-automatic weapons and magazines carrying more than 10 rounds. Anyone currently possessing those firearms would have to go through an additional background check and register with the state to keep them.

Backers need to obtain 88,184 valid signatures from registered voters. Supporters hope to gather thousands of additional signatures above that number to ensure they have enough valid ones.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.