Both the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Oregon promise citizens the right to bear arms. But like all of the rights in our democracy, there are exceptions designed to protect everyone’s safety and peace.
Americans are also entitled to free speech, but it’s still illegal to shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. In a similar way, you have responsibilities as a gun owner. If you’re keen on owning a firearm in the state of Oregon, this page serves as your comprehensive guide to common questions.
You’ll soon become better informed about purchasing a firearm, owning one, and navigating the legal system.
What Types of Firearms Can I Own?
Overall, Oregon is a reasonably generous state when it comes to the firearms a resident may purchase. Your typical shotguns and handguns are available to buy in stores, at gun shows, and from private parties. No Oregon law defines or regulates assault weapons, though there is a specific ban on armor piercing ammunition.
If you wish to own certain items with heightened destructive potential, Oregon defers to the National Firearms Act of 1934. The NFA regulates machine guns and silencers, to name a couple of examples. Buyers of these items are required to undergo additional background checks and permit requirements.
Purchasing a Gun in Oregon
Oregon is known for having less onerous rules around gun purchases, especially compared to some neighboring states such as California. Owners are not required to have a firearms license or permit and Oregon has no gun registry, though the Oregon State Police keep purchase transaction records for five years. Almost all purchases require a buyer to undergo a background check through the Firearms Instant Check System (FICS). Even private citizens selling a lawfully owned firearm must run a background check on any potential non-relative buyer. This requirement applies to all licensed dealer or private party sales unless the sale is between close family members (as described in ORS 166.435).
The background check doesn’t take long. Buyers present their driver’s license or another form of government-issued photo ID. That information is entered into Oregon’s Firearms Instant Check System. Living up to its name, 96% of FICS applications are approved within minutes. A buyer can leave with the firearm.
Another 3% of FICS checks turn up missing information or records that require further investigation to determine the buyer’s eligibility to make the purchase. In these situations, the buyer receives an estimate of how long the delay is expected to take. Usually it is a matter of a few days or a couple of weeks, though it can be longer if out-of-state records are involved. The firearm is usually held for the buyer but they cannot take possession of it until the background check is completed and the purchase approved.
Only 1% of checks deliver a denial result. A failed background check could be due to any of the following reasons:
- Criminal conviction for any past felony or misdemeanor involving domestic violence
- A conviction for a misdemeanor involving violence in the last four years
- Active arrest warrants
- Currently on pretrial release
- Health Division Registry status indicating that it would be unsafe to own a firearm
- Disqualifying protective order on record
If you find a great deal on a firearm in another state or you live near a border, don’t worry. Oregon’s neighbor states have come up with ways to work together. If you live in Oregon and go through the required legal steps to purchase a rifle or shotgun in California, Idaho, Nevada, or Washington, you may bring it back home. No special permission or notification is required.
How and Where You May Use Firearms
Think of Oregon firearm laws as similar to the rules of the road. Even if you legally purchased your vehicle and hold a valid driver’s license, you could still face legal trouble if you run a red light or tear through the middle of your neighbor’s flowerbed.
Concealed Carry in Oregon
To carry a concealed weapon on your person requires an Oregon Concealed Handgun License (CHL). Your local sheriff's office will provide and process the application. You will have to provide some basic information similar to that which you provided for your gun’s initial purchase. You will also need photo identification and a set of fingerprints.
A CHL also requires proof the buyer successfully completed an approved firearms training course and has no history of violent crime. There are several other restrictions as to who can get a CHL. For example, anyone required to register as a sex offender is not eligible for a CHL even if they have the right to own firearms.
A concealed carry license from another state doesn’t mean anything in Oregon. Gun owners from nearby states who visit Oregon cannot carry concealed unless they obtain an Oregon CHL by going through the standard application process, which can take a month or longer.
Open Carry in Oregon
“Open carry” is generally legal in Oregon but subject to restrictions that include a ban in public buildings, some parks, and even some entire cities. Open carry allows weapons to be carried in public places if not concealed. Open carrying should always be done responsibly and thoughtfully if we want to ensure it continues in Oregon.
Open carry is not intended to be used as a means for intimidation or coercion. In many situations it is unlawful to draw or discharge a firearm.
Discharging a Firearm in Oregon
Restrictions around discharging a firearm are generally meant to ensure public peace and safety. For example, you may not:
- Hunt game in a cemetery.
- Discharge a firearm toward a train or an airport operational surface.
- Discharge a firearm across a public street or recreation area.
There are laws that also generally restrict gun use. For example, discharging a firearm within city limits is prohibited in most, if not all, Oregon cities.
Pointing a Gun
It is illegal to point a firearm at another human being. It does not matter if the firearm is unloaded. The exception is in situations involving self-defense or defense of others.
Self-Defense with a Firearm in Oregon
A person is justified in using otherwise unlawful force upon another only with a reasonable belief that unlawful force is about to be used upon themselves or another person. Self-defense only allows use of as much force as is reasonably believed to be necessary in the situation. Self-defense is not an option for a person who is the initial aggressor unless they withdraw from the confrontation and clearly communicate the intent to cease their use of force.
Special rules apply to the use of deadly physical force in self-defense. These actions will always be reviewed by law enforcement and possibly a grand jury. Justification for the use of deadly physical force in self-defense is limited to situations where the defender reasonably believes the other person is using or attempting to use life-threatening physical force.
Who Can Possess a Firearm in Oregon?
Most adult residents of Oregon can purchase, carry, and use a firearm. Gun ownership is prevalent in Oregon, a state rich with hunting traditions and a strong set of laws to protect the firearm rights of its citizens. One out of every sixteen adults in Oregon possesses a concealed handgun license.
Youth may use their family’s firearms with parental permission. Any minor who uses firearms should have a thorough understanding and respect for gun safety protocols. Youth under 18 may not purchase a firearm and even adults must wait until the age of 21 to buy a handgun.
Who Cannot Own or Use a Firearm?
A criminal record or active arrest warrant can prevent you from owning a firearm. People who have been convicted of a felony or crime with a possible maximum sentence of more than one year are not permitted to own or operate firearms. Even if your particular sentence was shorter, if the judge could have given a sentence of longer than a year you cannot buy a gun.
Many of the limitations surrounding firearm ownership are directly tied to past violence. Anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence or is presently subject to a protective order against them is may not own a firearm. There are also protective orders that can be taken out if a person is found to be at high risk for potential violence due to mental illness or an acute mental health crisis.
Other firearm restrictions exist around mental health adjudications. Oregon courts can issue an Extreme Risk Protection Order. If a judge determines an individual is at high risk of hurting themselves or other people with a gun, the judge can prevent firearm ownership and order guns currently in the person’s possession to be seized.
Further, if a person has at any point been determined “mentally defective,” a term broadly interpreted, they are prohibited from firearm ownership. This applies to anyone who has ever been institutionalized involuntarily for more than a 72 hour observation period. Voluntary commitment is not generally disqualifying.
Responsible use of firearms may be essential for retaining certain rights. People who are convicted of wounding someone with a firearm due to carelessness cannot apply for a hunting license for ten years. This does not necessarily restrict firearm ownership, but it does restrict how a firearm may be used.
People who have chosen to renounce US Citizenship or are in the United States illegally cannot buy a firearm.
What If I Own a Gun Illegally?
Carrying a firearm that you are not permitted to own or concealing a firearm without the proper permit is a crime. These offenses are Class A misdemeanors in many circumstances, especially if no prior felony criminal record is involved. Both are serious crimes that could result in up to a year in jail, five years probation, and/or a fine of up to $6,250.
A felon in possession of a firearm would likely be charged with a Class C felony that could result in up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $125,000.
Carrying an unregistered machine gun or other National Firearms Act (NFA) weapon could very likely lead to a federal felony criminal charge. This Class B felony is serious business even at the state level. It can result in up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000.
Firearm Rights Restoration
If a felony or other crime has ended your right to own a gun in Oregon, that may not be a lifelong sentence. When you work with an experienced rights restoration lawyer, it’s not uncommon for gun ownership rights to be restored.
Getting a crime expunged or set aside removes the entire criminal incident from your record, so you benefit from a clean slate. Oregon expungement has always been interpreted as restoring firearm rights, but some agents are taking the opposite approach. Talk to an experienced firearm rights attorney. You must wait three to ten years after a conviction before being eligible for this rights restoration option. If your probation was revoked, you will not be eligible for at least three years from the date of revocation.
A felony reduction is an option for many felonies that cannot be expunged. Reduction can be granted for any Class C felony or drug possession Class B felony, though if prison time was served it may be more difficult to obtain. Examples of crimes regularly reduced are Felony Driving While Suspended and Attempt to Elude. After a successful reduction, your felony becomes a misdemeanor, which usually results in the restoration of your gun rights.
If your lawyer finds you don’t qualify for a set aside or reduction, there is also the option of pursuing an Oregon firearm rights restoration. If a person has been a law-abiding citizen for a sufficient period of time, it may be possible to make a case for the restoration of his/her gun rights. There are some disqualifying convictions, including person felonies involving the use of a firearm or deadly weapon.
Lohrke Law Supports Oregon Firearm Rights
As an American citizen, your rights are protected by a sophisticated legal system. When you find yourself in trouble with the law or have questions about your rights, get the assistance of Lohrke Law. We’re committed to getting our clients the best results possible. You need a lawyer who understands how criminal convictions impact firearm rights. Whether you’re seeking gun rights restoration or have been charged with a weapons-related offense, we’ll ensure that your case gets the legal support it needs and deserves.