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Health care groups enter Oregon gun control case

Professional associations representing doctors, nurses and others are backing an appeal in support of Measure 114, arguing research shows it would improve public safety
June 18, 2024

Eight groups representing Oregon health care professionals have asked an appeals court to clear the way for a delayed gun-control measure, arguing it would cut down on the firearm-related deaths and injuries they see first-hand. 

The coalition of groups representing doctors, nurses, physician associates and others argued in a brief filed June 14 that Measure 114, a 2022 voter-approved measure since tied up in legal challenges, would reduce what they characterized as Oregon’s rising gun violence.

“The medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out on this topic, just as physicians and nurses have spoken out on other public health issues,” reads the brief written by Margaret Olney, an attorney with Portland law firm Bennett Hartman. 

The brief supports an appeal filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to overturn a ruling by Harney County Circuit Court Judge Robert Raschio. In 2023, Raschio sided with a pair of gun owners challenging the measure, finding that it violates the state constitution and would not improve public safety. 

In the new brief, the medical groups argued that Measure 114 would improve public safety. They pointed to research showing that Connecticut saw an estimated 40% reduction in firearm homicide rates in the first decade after the state required permitting for would-be gun owners in 1995. Conversely, Missouri saw a 34% increase in its firearm homicide rate the first year after the state repealed its permit requirement in 2007, according to the brief. 

The medical groups further argued that laws requiring background checks don’t do enough to reduce firearm-related deaths. However, Measure 114’s permitting and firearm safety instruction requirements would enhance public safety, they argued. 

“Dealing directly with law enforcement when getting a permit is likely to deter purchasers from buying a firearm and then using it against another person or to commit a crime,” reads the brief. 

Citing figures from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, the brief states that deaths, including homicides and suicides, caused by firearms in Oregon increased by 38% between 2012 and 2021. 

“The impact of these deaths is felt across families and communities; research suggests that for each life lost to a suicide by use of a firearm, 135 individuals are affected.

According to the brief, the eight professional associations represent a majority of physicians, physicians assistants, nurses, and researchers in Oregon. They include:

  • The Oregon Medical Association
  • The Oregon Pediatric Society
  • The Oregon Nurses Association
  • The Oregon Academy of Family Physicians 
  • The Oregon Chapter of the American College of Physicians
  • The Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians 
  • The Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association 
  • Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jthomasreports