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Oregon group gathers signatures for gun reform initiatives

If passed, the initiatives would ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines in Oregon. They would also enact what proponents call common sense gun laws.

PORTLAND, Oregon — A coalition of faith and community leaders in Portland is trying to gather signatures for two gun reform initiatives to appear on the November ballot. 

The city has had its worst year of gun violence on record. This past week, another young life was lost when 19-year-old Keion Brown was shot and killed in the Bridgeton neighborhood

This kind of violence is exactly what a coalition of faith and community leaders is trying to quell. On Friday, they talked about two key ways to do so and asked for the public's support. 

"We have two ballot initiatives. We hope to have them on the ballot in 2022; that requires gathering 112,080 signatures,” said Lift Every Voice Oregon volunteer Liz McKanna.  

If passed, the initiatives would ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in Oregon. They would also enact what proponents call common sense gun laws, including requiring all gun buyers to have background checks and earn permits through training.

McKanna said Lift Every Voice Oregon needs help gathering all those signatures to get initiatives on the ballot next November. They are initiative petitions 17 and 18.

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Rev. Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland helps lead Lift Every Voice Oregon. He said it's not about taking away all guns.

“It's about the kinds of weapons that are out there, weapons of war, literally large and high-capacity magazines, weapons that were designed to take as many lives as possible," Knutson said. 

The National Rifle Association disagrees, recently telling its Oregon members, "They don't care about the constitution, your right to keep and bear arms or your God-given right of self-defense."

Police theorize that most guns used in crimes in Portland do not come from legal sources. A recent KGW investigation showed how most weapons used in a crime were either stolen, bought through straw purchasers or purchased on the black market.

But this political action committee feels it is about ending an epidemic of death and destruction, caused by guns.  The group said that will take more than new laws; it will take a community effort. 

On Sunday at 1 p.m., Better Portland will hold a rally against gun violence at Pioneer Courthouse Square where the petitions will be promoted. 

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“It is to say that we want to live more peaceably and we want to have safety on our streets,” said Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessey, pastor of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church who applauded the Better Portland effort.

He added, "Many of the things that have changed in our society have changed not because government led but because government was pushed, and in this particular area we need to push."