The Deschutes County Commission has agreed to discuss an ordinance that would prohibit county resources from being used to enforce state gun laws.
During a meeting Wednesday, commissioners received a draft ordinance from Jerrad Robison, a Redmond resident. None of the three commissioners returned phone calls Wednesday evening, but Commission Chairman Phil Henderson said during the meeting the three would read Robison’s draft ordinance, look into the process of passing it and discuss it next week.
“I think all three of us will take it seriously,” Henderson said.
It’s a slightly changed version of a ballot measure proposed by gun rights advocates in several Oregon counties last year that would allow sheriffs to determine whether federal, state and local gun laws violated the U.S. or Oregon constitutions. If sheriffs believed they did, local officials would be barred from enforcing those laws.
Robison was the chief petitioner for the Deschutes County ballot measure, which didn’t gather the required 4,144 signatures to make the November ballot. Voters in several other counties, including Union, Umatilla and Baker counties, approved their versions of the measure.
The new ordinance he proposed Wednesday lacks the requirement that a sheriff determine which laws are acceptable. Instead, it broadly defines local, state and federal gun control regulations as “extraterritorial acts” that would be considered null and void in Deschutes County.
Laws that tax ammunition, require background checks, ban accessories that give semi-automatic weapons the same features as fully automatic weapons and restrict open or concealed carrying of firearms would be among those nullified.
“Any gun law is against the Constitution,” Robison said in an interview with The Bulletin.
He said efforts to gather signatures for the earlier measure in time for elections in 2020 are ongoing, but the new ordinance he proposed Wednesday might be easier to pass.
Typically, laws are passed by the legislative branch — such as Congress, state legislatures, city councils and county commissions — and enforced by the executive branch. The court system, not the executive branch, determines whether laws are unconstitutional.
However, there is precedent for local and state governments to refuse to use their resources to enforce laws. For instance, Oregon’s sanctuary law prohibits state and local law enforcement from arresting people who are in the country illegally but have committed no other crimes.
Robison said his proposed sanctuary ordinance is different from the state’s sanctuary law because he believes gun laws violate the Constitution and federal immigration law does not.
“The people in Salem are actually breaking the law by coming up with this legislation,” he said.
He cited Senate Bill 501, sponsored by two Portland-area legislators on behalf of a group of Lake Oswego teens who have lobbied for gun control since 2018’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bill would require prospective gun owners to obtain a permit before buying or receiving a gun, prohibit magazines with a capacity of more than five rounds and limit the amount of ammunition a person could buy, among other changes to gun laws.
New Commissioner Patti Adair said during Wednesday’s meeting she wanted to hear feedback from Deschutes County’s legal counsel about ordinance.
“We have to send a message to Salem that we do have our rights, which we want our citizens to be able to maintain,” Adair said.
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