Gun laws pushing voters on both sides to ballot boxes

Elections 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 14: Student Maximilian Steubl of Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, participates in a gun control rally at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol March 14, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After a deadly summer for mass shootings and other gun violence across the country, gun regulation is on the ballot in at least four states, where voters’ choices could impact gun ownership for years to come. 

Some political watchers say gun control is becoming a top issue motivating voters to get to the polls — meaning what happens in these states could have implications for the presidential election in 2024. 

“There’s no law that’s going to prevent every suicide or every mass shooting,” Paul Shively, a hunter and concealed carry license holder, told Oregon Public Radio. “I’m just ready as a gun owner to say: ‘We need to step up to the plate and be part of the solution.’”

Oregon is one of two states voting on measures that would change which residents can own guns — and what they’d have to do to get one. 

The referendum, which critics have called “most extreme,” would require all gun buyers to complete safety training and get a permit, as well as ban large-capacity ammunition magazines. 

Research has shown that of the 284 mass shootings since 2009, 55% have involved such ammunition. At least nine states have passed similar bans.

Perhaps most controversially, the Oregon referendum would also create a gun ownership database that would allow police to track permit expiration dates. The changes would come on the heels of a safe storage law passed by the state legislature in 2021, which has been widely shown to reduce gun deaths.

Meanwhile in Iowa, which has leaned red in recent years, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment would add the right to the state’s constitution — and could make it harder to implement new gun control or safety laws. 

The amendment has been a yearslong effort of Republicans from the state, which is one of just six without such constitutional protections. In 2021, Republican legislators passed a law allowing Iowans to carry handguns without a permit.

In Texas, no gun control law is on the ballot. Nonetheless the issue is a centerpiece of the governor’s race after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers earlier this year. 

In the aftermath, incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law allowing people to carry guns without a permit. His opponent, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, has vowed to repeal the legislation if elected.

And a similar clash is taking place between gubernatorial hopefuls in New York, the site of another mass shooting targeting Black shoppers in Buffalo. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has made strengthening gun laws a priority of her campaign, faced a blow last month when a federal judge temporarily blocked “significant portions” of a law that required a social media check and created gun-free zones.

Experts say the outcome of this case could have ramifications for how federal courts across the country interpret the Second Amendment.

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