Gun shop owners face brisk sales amid questions about Oregon’s gun control law

Measure 114, which passed by a narrow margin, will require safety training that’s yet to be defined.

By: - November 21, 2022 5:45 am

Austin Cock, manager of the Tick Licker Firearms in Salem, talks to a customer interested in purchasing a shotgun at the store on Friday Nov. 18, 2022 (Connor Radnovich/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Firearms shops are enjoying brisk sales following the narrow approval by voters of Measure 114, which will restrict sales of some magazines and require safety training.

One example: At Tick Licker Firearms in Salem, customers lined up Friday in front of counters on Friday to inspect firearms and pepper the clerks with questions about the measure and what comes next. Sales are also soaring ahead of the measure’s implementation as people place requests for background checks. They  worry that they will not be able to purchase guns in the future due to the requirements of the measure.

“It’s a de facto gun ban,” said Brian Clark, 50, of Salem, a customer who said he’s worried the measure will erode Second Amendment rights.

It’s a scene playing out across the state. The Oregon State Police reported an uptick in requests through the agency’s Firearms Instant Check System unit that processes background checks for firearm purchases. The measure goes into effect on Dec. 8, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

Magazines with slots for more than 10 bullets will be banned under the measure. (Connor Radnovich/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Measure 114 will end a loophole in federal law that allows firearm dealers to sell guns without a background check if it’s not completed within three business days. It also will require anyone who buys a gun in Oregon to pass firearm safety training and ban the sale of bullet magazines that hold over 10 rounds.

Though the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office said the measure goes into effect on Dec. 8, many questions need to be resolved in order to put the law in place.

State officials – and possibly lawmakers – will need to adopt rules detailing how it will work, such as determining the training curriculum and who conducts it. The Oregon State Police will start drafting regulations, and lawmakers could follow up with legislation in the 2023 session as well.

This unit has been working through these extreme firearms request volumes and will continue to process them as quickly as possible.

– Oregon State Police statement

In a statement, the police agency said it’s working closely with the Department of Justice, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police to determine what’s required to implement the law.

With  Dec. 8 looming, there’s a rush of firearms purchases and uncertainty about what’s ahead.

“This unit has been working through these extreme firearms request volumes and will continue to process them as quickly as possible,” the Oregon State Police said in a statement.

So far in November, about 63% of the requests sent to the Oregon State Police firearms instant check system have been approved. The daily average for background check requests has soared from 849 before the election to 4,092 after the election, state police data shows.

More info

For more information about the Oregon State Police’s Firearms Instant Check System, go here

For the remaining transactions, a police worker needs to determine what caused the automated system to reject the application.

The Oregon State Police says the following items can exclude someone from the automated process:

  • If you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime in Oregon or any other state.
  • If you have incomplete or incorrect information listed on the form, requiring a check for accuracy.
  • If your address listed with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t match the address on your form. To fix that in advance, update your address with the DMV.
  • For more information about the Oregon State Police’s Firearms Instant Check System, go here.

Unfortunately, the way that it reads, we won't be able to essentially transfer a firearm until the systems are going to be in place. We will potentially have to close due to it if we’re not selling guns.

– Austin Cock, manager of Tick Licker gun stories in Salem and Corvallis

At Tick Licker Firearms, which has stores in Salem and Corvallis, the general manager said the measure could put the dealer out of business if people cannot get permits when Measure 114 goes into effect.

“Unfortunately, the way that it reads, we won’t be able to essentially transfer a firearm until the systems are going to be in place,” said Austin Cock, general manager of both stories. “We will potentially have to close due to it if we’re not selling guns.”

Cock said storefront sales make up 95% of its business, which means a halt of sales would deeply cut into its bottom line. He said the measure may look “good on paper,” but without regulations in place to allow permits, firearms dealers will be harmed if they cannot sell their products.

Tick Licker gun shop in Salem has had brisk sales since Measure 114 passed. (Connor Radnovich/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

‘Huge influx’

Dealers report a “huge influx” of firearm sales in recent days amid the uncertainty about the permit system and gun sales after Dec 8. “That scares people,” Cock said. “It actually is a very scary thing.”

At the Salem store, nearly 500 forms for background checks needed for firearm purchases have been filed with state police in the week and a half since the election, Cock said. In comparison, about 500 a month is the norm, he said.

The measure also has sparked questions and scrutiny from sheriffs, several who have said they won’t enforce the new law – or won’t go out of their way to look for violators.

Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan said in a statement on Facebook that her office will not enforce magazine capacity limits, calling it a “terrible law for gun owners, crime victims, and public safety.”

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson has said enforcement won’t be a priority, The Bulletin in Bend reported. Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash has said he’s “frustrated” by the measure, though will follow it, the Baker City Herald reported.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers said his office plans on enforcing the law “if it is ruled constitutional by any court challenge.”

“While I may not agree with Measure 114 and was openly against it prior to the election, I have sworn to an oath to uphold the laws of this state, regardless of my opinion,” Landers said in a statement. “Does this mean we will be going door to door asking if you know about this law, if you have high-capacity magazines, etc.? No, we will not be doing this; just like we do not go around asking if you have a fully automatic firearm (which is currently illegal unless you have a permit).  However, if we learn you have violated the law we may take action, just like we are responsible for doing for any other crime.”

Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast also released a statement this week saying his office is working to learn more from the county’s legal counsel and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association about the requirements. Kast is keeping an eye out for lawsuits that could impact the measure.

“As with any new bill or legislation, we’ll be diligent in our efforts to understand the requirements, develop processes and procedures to comply with mandated provisions, and vigilantly monitor any potential litigation to ensure we are abiding by current case law,” Kast said in a statement.

He said he anticipates “significant strain” on his office’s limited staffing and resources due to the measure.

“Moving forward, we will prioritize our services towards the areas of greatest need to best serve the residents and visitors within Marion County, therefore will not be focusing investigations on magazine capacity issues,” Kast said. “Over the next several weeks we will share additional information as it becomes available, we appreciate your continued patience.”


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Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.