Surviving Measure 114

Thanks to everyone who joined in and contributed towards fighting Measure 114. Unfortunately this regressive law passed, though extremely narrowly. Because 114 was written vaguely and potential litigation may slow things down, it’s difficult to say how things will unfold next. However, some issues can be addressed:

1.The Race Factor It’s not just an empty slogan when people say “Gun Control is Racist.” This typically comes into play through implicit bias in policing, yet Oregon has already provided especially blatant examples of this. Sheriffs in several overwhelmingly white counties have declared they will not enforce the measure. Even if they eventually reverse themselves, it will be obvious to rank and file officers what is expected, making Measure 114 a functional law against self defense only where significant communities of color exist.

One of many mailers sent out by pro-114 groups

2. Manufactured Moral Panic One of the most sensational claims promoted by gun control advocates in Measure 114 propaganda is that firearms are now the leading cause of death among children. This is only technically accurate using skewed definitions of the word “children” in two ways. The first is eliminating infants under one years old, whose mortality rate from various causes are higher than gun related deaths. The second is including young adults aged eighteen and nineteen, which bumps the statistics enough to surpass other leading fatalities.

It’s an incredibly cynical scare tactic, considering this age group votes, serves in the military, and in many cases have kids of their own. Gun violence is real and affects too many actual children, but manufacturing data to create a moral panic only makes dialogue towards solutions more difficult.

3. Money Talks  I subscribe to many gun control email lists and see how fundraising ploys profit from skewed arms industry caricatures. Their carefully crafted image portrays plucky grassroots activists opposing a powerful NRA who bribe politicians with money from shady weapons manufacturers. Yet the numbers don’t match this fantasy. Pro-114 groups raised 2.4 million dollars, while those opposing scraped together just a couple hundred thousand. 114 backers reaped massive donations from billionaire tech magnates and the wealthy financier Michael Bloomberg.

The embattled NRA only ponied up $25,700 and then bungled reporting it, earning an $8,000 fine for their incompetence. The reality is pro-gun groups possess cultural clout but nothing approaching the vast resources of other notorious lobbying groups, such as Amazon or Pfizer. The NRA is a trash fire of racism and greed and operates nowhere near the same level as arms manufacturing behemoths like Lockheed-Martin or Raytheon who have little interest in donating towards 2nd Amendment causes.

4. Delays Can be Dangerous On December 8th all legal gun sales in Oregon will halt, unless some last minute injunction delays the measure. It’s unclear when they will continue, placing anyone who might need emergency self defense in a precarious situation.

Many times people have approached me for gun training who never thought they needed a firearm until something dramatically changed in their life. Perhaps stalking and violence from an ex-partner, with subsequent dismissiveness from the police. Perhaps a sudden barrage of death threats from fascists and discovering their home address broadcast on the internet. People in immediate danger must either face it unarmed or potentially buy illegal guns on the black market, further placing themselves in legal jeopardy. 

5. Unintended Consequences Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982 and Democrats enjoy a lockdown on every statewide office yet this time their candidate Tina Kotek barely edged out her main opponent. Most analysis of this faults Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat running as an independent who possibly drew more votes away from Kotek than her Republican challenger. 

Interestingly, Johnson was a very pro-firearm voice in the state senate who acknowledges owning a machine gun. In 2012 she spoke to the annual national meeting of the Liberal Gun Club in Portland, which I attended, and recounted hanging a pink bandoleer full of toy ammunition in the senate cloakroom to annoy anti-gun Democrats.

Laying blame on Johnson for denying Kotek a landslide victory is easy, yet left unexamined is how Measure 114 galvanized conservative voters. For example, Measure 111 guaranteeing affordable health care barely passed and even Measure 112 which removed slavery from the constitution only received a 55.6 majority. When gun control laws appear on the ballot, they endanger actual progressive issues by associated backlash and even Democratic candidates in ordinarily friendly territory.

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