Curry County commissioners have removed a contentious item from today’s (Jan. 6) agenda that would have allowed Curry County to disregard all future state and federal laws and regulations regarding possession and sales of most guns and their accessories.
Proponents will still be permitted to make a presentation regarding their proposed Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance, said Commissioner Court Boice. He declined to name who asked to place this iteration it on the agenda this month.
The ordinance or variations of it have been proposed throughout the state after the legislature this winter took up Senate Bill 501, a gun regulation that died in the regular session last month.
The less contentious parts of that bill would have required a permit before the purchase of a firearm, the new owner to secure the firearm with a cable lock or in a container and to report the theft of that firearm.
Other parts, however, prohibited possession of a magazine that holds five or more rounds of ammunition — and required those who own such weapons to dispose of them within 180 days after the legislation became law. The legislation would also have required a 14-day period between the sale and transfer of weapons, a criminal background check on ammunition sales — and restricted sales to 20 rounds in a 30-day period.
“I’m strongly opposed to that legislation,” Boice said. “It scares me way more than the people who say we need additional language to protect our rights. The entire sanctuary amendment crowd in the entire state is in an uproar. That’s died down, for now, but it’ll gain a little more momentum in the future.”
Curry County already has an ordinance commissioners approved in 2016 that states Curry County will interpret the Second Amendment — the right to keep and bear arms — as originally stated in the U.S. Constitution.
Commissioners debated that for months in 2016, noting that when they took their oath of office, they swore to uphold the constitutions of Oregon and the U.S. and that approving such an ordinance would be redundant.
Butch Jark, one of the leaders of the “Second Amendment Preservation Committee” who proposed the 2016 ordinance, said he doesn’t trust the state or federal government to make the right decisions regarding gun laws.
In the end, it was approved 2-1, with Commissioner Tom Huxley saying he wouldn’t approve an ordinance without knowing it had public backing.
The latest ordinance
Boice said the most recent proposal was pulled from the agenda because it needs “a ton of work.”
He said he believes in its premise, and that some form of it is needed because people — particularly in rural areas — are often defenseless.
“Some people would like to be able to depend on the police, but that’s not always the reality,” Boice said. “It’s the right thing for Curry County, but definitely not as written.”
The document notes the nation’s founders created government to exercise a “few defined powers,” but reserves the rights for citizens to decide what matters when it concerns their lives, liberties and properties.
It cites a section of the state constitution that reads, “This enumeration of rights and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people,” and while the state may mold local institutions, those of “local government is a matter of absolute right and the state cannot take it away.”
A primary component of the document says “local governments have the legal authority to refuse to cooperate with state and federal firearm laws” that violate those rights.
Another section says no official of the county shall participate in any way to enforce any “extraterritorial” — federal or state — act regarding personal firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition, and proclaims a Second Amendment Sanctuary for law-abiding citizens declaring Curry County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
The concern Boice has with the document is a part that would weaken background checks on the sales of firearms.
“If anything, we need more background checks,” he said. “That just sends the wrong message.”
Others have said the proposal is overly broad and permissive; one section says that any prohibition or limits on hand grips, stocks, flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, magazine, internal or clip capacity would be considered null in Curry County. A similar paragraph reads that any extraterritorial prohibition related to ownership of non-fully-automatic or semi-automatic — including those that have the appearance of fully-automatic assault-style firearms — would also be invalid here.
LauRose Felicity, a Brookings Constitutional lawyer, said all this proposal needs is a trash can.
“All the sane gun law provisions are being set aside in there,” she said of the proposed ordinance. “(Gun safety proponents) are not saying give me your guns. They’re saying, no bump stocks, no clips with multiple rounds.”
She cited the 6.5 minutes it took to kill 17 students at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Valentine’s Day.
“The only way you can resist that is having the same firepower,” Felicity said. “You can’t have a police officer with just a regular automatic weapon, so you basically have to have a shootoff. It doesn’t work, unless everyone’s running around with assault rifles.”
She also worries about Oregon’s domestic violence law as it pertains to lax gun regulations.
“Someone with a history doesn’t get to go get a gun so they can injure them better,” she said. “This (proposal) would prohibit that in Curry County.”
And she said that, contrary to what many say, a county can’t simply pass laws that defeat provisions of those made at the state or federal level.
She cited the First Amendment and the freedom of speech as an example.
“You cannot buy or circulate or make child pornography,” she said. “(Doing so) would be an exercise of freedom of speech, but you’re not allowed to because the state has a compelling interest in protecting children. It can restrict your absolute right to freedom of speech to such extent as is necessary to protect children.
“The state impinges upon other constitutional rights all the time,” she added. “The question is, is it unreasonable, without a compelling state interest? In this case, there are firearms laws to restrict things like clips with multiple rounds and require background checks. Yes, it does infringe upon constitutional rights, but it’s reasonable.”
If freedom of speech and the right to bear arms were absolute rights, she noted, then so would be the right to liberty.
“Then you can’t be locked up and put in jail,” Felicity said. “But the state has a compelling interest in regulating certain types of behavior. How many people have to get murdered before we say the state has a compelling interest to restrict Second Amendment rights, to affect a dire need?”