Curry County commissioners plan to discuss at a future workshop a proposed ordinance or ballot question they believe is needed in Curry County to protect Second Amendment rights from overreach by the state or federal governments.
As written, the ordinance would declare Curry County a Second Amendment Sanctuary county, declaring null any future law that would in any way limit sale and registration of firearms and their accessories.
A similar ordinance was approved in 2016 but commissioners then noted it could be redundant, as they had already sworn to uphold the Second Amendment when they took their oaths of office.
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.
“My rights as an American are non-negotiable,” Rob Taylor of Bandon, a proponent of the proposed ordinance told commissioners. “These laws are wholly unacceptable, wholly unnecessary, wholly irresponsible.
“It’s not the federal laws we have a problem with,” he continued. “It’s the state laws we have a problem with. This is a directive (saying) the county will not cooperate with any state or federal laws concerning firearms or firearms accessories.”
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.
Constitutional lawyer LauRose Felicity of Brookings noted earlier this week there is precedent in infringing upon “absolute” rights. She cited child pornography as an example, noting that the state has a compelling interest in protecting children and therefore has made that illegal — despite the absolute rights of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.
Taylor said Curry County government is set up so that the sheriff, district attorney and board of commissioners are the ones who determine if a Second Amendment right has been violated. They believe that should be left to a judge.
County Attorney John Huttl has yet to offer an opinion on the ramifications of such an ordinance.
“Laws should go after actions, not inanimate objects, which is the firearm itself,” Taylor said. “That’s what we believe is the threat. They are attacking Second Amendment rights in so many different ways — to force us to have permits, force us to have psychological evaluations, force us not to be able to buy weapons.”
He said he understands the concern surrounding the issue.
“But they’re blowing it out of proportion,” Taylor said. “What they’re asking for is a revolution. We want to drive (people) to the ballot box, not the cartridge box.”
Lyn Boniface of Pistol River requested the issue be placed on the ballot, because by law, there is nothing to stop a future county commissioner board from overturning an ordinance approved by a previous board.
It was noted, too, that if a county chooses to ignore the laws of the state or federal government, it could risk having state and federal funds withdrawn.
Paul Goodell of Brookings said he doesn’t like elected officials in Salem, the number of voters in Portland or the liberal transplants from California dictating to rural Oregon residents what they can do.
“I’ve seen it happen when rural counties roll over because of funding,” he said. “The Second Amendment is the red-headed stepchild of rights, and across the West Coast of Washington and Oregon, they’re trying to catch up to California. I’m not going to have it.”
Commissioner Court Boice, a Second Amendment supporter, agreed.
“There’s a war on our police,” he said, citing the diminishing numbers entering the profession and how many are killed in the line of duty. “Is there going to be a revolution? I have to maintain my right to protect myself.”
The other side of the gun
Some citizens, however, weren’t as enthusiastic about the prospect of ignoring federal and state gun laws.
Connie Hunter, a veterans advocate from Brookings, cited the high number of suicides among veterans and those between the ages of 18 and 24. She said 436,110 suicides were committed nationwide last year and 228,182 of those — 52 percent — involved the use of firearms.
“This is about how we handle freedoms and responsibilities,” she said. “I’m all about freedoms, but on the other side of the coin, I’m all about responsibility, too.”
Hassie Taylor of the League of Women Voters said the organization’s national stance on handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons is that their proliferation represents a major health and safety threat to citizens.
The League supports strong federal measures to limit accessibility and regulating firearms for consumer safety, its website reads. It also supports licensing procedures, waiting periods for background checks, gun safety education and annual license renewals.