Oregon gun owners may be required to safely lock or store their firearms or face liability risks, under a proposed ballot initiative filed Thursday.

The proposal mimics a failed attempt to put the same gun safety reform proposal before voters in 2018. That year, advocates began the ballot process too late and missed a deadline to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

The new version, which backers aim to put on the November 2020 ballot, is championed by the same group, including two relatives of victims of the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting.

Backers would need 112,020 signatures to put the question to voters late next year.

If Initiative Petition 40 qualifies for the ballot and is adopted, it would require Oregon gun owners to store and transfer weapons in tamper-proof locked boxes or with trigger locks. It would also require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement within 24 hours of the loss or face liability.

Henry Wessinger, president of nonprofit advocacy group State of Safety Action, which backs the proposal, said safe gun storage requirements were part of the omnibus gun bill that Democrats killed in the 2019 Legislature to end a Republican walkout. Wessinger said the group believes Democratic lawmakers will bring the proposal back in the 2020 legislative session.

The ballot initiative is a backup if legislation fails again, he said.

Wessinger said a statewide poll the group conducted found 65% of voters supported the measure in 2018. He also said 75% of gun owners already use safe storage procedures.

The man who killed two shoppers at Clackamas Town Center was said to have taken his friend’s guns without permission. The friend only noticed his semi-automatic rifle was missing after the fatal shootings had taken place.

“If everyone had safe storage, you would have less teens who have access to bringing guns to schools and less people dying by firearm suicide,” Wessinger said.

His two co-petitioners are Jenna Passalacqua, daughter of Cindy Yuille, and Paul Kemp, brother-in-law of Steve Forsythe. Yuille and Forsyth both died from the mass shooting at the mall.

The Oregon Firearms Federation, which opposes the measure, described it as “dangerous and vindictive,” in a statement Thursday. The group said the liability places an unfair burden on the gun owner.

“As has been the case in all previous ballot measures and failed legislation, the measure contains not one single word about stiffer penalties for people who actually steal guns,” the statement continued. “In effect, you face greater liability than the thief who stole your firearm.”

State of Safety Action indicated it will pay signature-gatherers, according to filings with the Secretary of State. Wessinger said his group will not use paid circulators to collect the qualifying 1,000 signatures needed to begin the ballot title drafting process but may deploy them in the future. State of Safety Action is donation-funded.


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