Curry County commissioners will delay a decision about an ordinance proposed by the Committee to Preserve the Second Amendment until budget discussions are complete late next month.
The ordinance would make any new regulations restricting firearms and ammunition null and void in unincorporated Curry County.
Proponents say it is needed in light of the 14 “common-sense” bills making their way through the legislature in Salem. Some of those bills would require gun owners to have locks on their guns and make reports if the weapons are stolen. Others reach much further, such as limiting rounds of ammunition one can possess or purchase to five.
Proponents argue the pending legislation would make felons of many, as they already possess many of the firearms and ammunition targeted by lawmakers.
Commissioners, who listened to two hours of public comment during an evening workshop Wednesday, have the choice of doing nothing regarding the ordinance, adopting it or referring it to the voters.
A similar ordinance was unanimously adopted in Josephine County, supporters noted. Another is currently in the courts in Columbia County to determine if it can even be put on a ballot.
The proposed ordinance, called the Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance (SASO) would prohibit any county employee — the sheriff — from enforcing any new gun laws enacted.
It would nullify any law enacting future taxes, tracking, gun registration, semi-automatic arms and background checks, would allow possession, ownership and transfer of firearms to citizens 18 and older, except felons and ban any regulations limiting hand grips, stocks, flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, magazine and clip capacity.
It also says law enforcement would be required to arrest anyone who doesn’t comply with the ordinance, and be fined up to $2,000 if they didn’t.
Sheriff John Ward made offered no remarks during the comment period.
About half of those in the packed hearing room — more were seated in the hallway — spoke in favor of the proposal.
Rob Taylor, the Coos Bay author of the ordinance, said the proposal had been reviewed by at least a dozen attorneys and a modified version was adopted by the commissioners in Josephine County.
“This law doesn’t have anything to do with firearm or firearm accessories or making them against the law,” he said. “Oregon is a sanctuary state where illegals can come, they fall foul of the law and law enforcement can’t do anything to help (federal immigration law enforcement) get rid of the perpetrators. Instead of illegal immigration, this pertains to firearms.”
Taylor said the “leftist government” in Salem wants to disarm citizens.
“Any law against a gun is not common sense,” Taylor continued. “We need laws that pertain to criminals. What it does is eliminate all the rules on law-abiding citizens. If the (laws) pass in Salem, I am going to be a criminal.”
“This prevents lawful owners from having firearms; it does nothing at all to make criminals comply,” said Lou Costa of Gold Beach. “Tell our gun-hating legislators and governor, ‘No, not in this county you don’t.’”
To the vote
Many at the meeting spoke to ask the issue be put on the ballot.
“Nowhere in this ordinance is this removing any regulations,” said Lyn Boniface of Pistol River. “We’re not asking to adopt it; we’re asking to put it on the ballot. Many people, including many here, are using scare-mongering, saying if this is passed all bets are off, there will be lawlessness, with gunfights in the streets.”
Boniface added things will not change, except that Curry County would have the ordinance in place if legislators in Salem pass up to 14 gun laws posed to them this year.
Doug Lewis of South County said he was concerned about the safety of law enforcement trying to make people comply with any new state laws limiting guns and ammunition.
“Imagine some law-abiding citizen has a magazine that holds too many rounds that used to be legal,” Lewis said. “Do we want to put a sheriff’s deputy in that kind of jeopardy? For what? I can’t imagine very many people in Curry County turning in their weapons. I’d hate to see any deputy injured or even worse over a stupid (state) law that has no right to be passed. Salem can do whatever they want, but they don’t represent Curry County.”
Commissioner Chris Paasch almost called a recess when Tracy Rupp got up to say he wasn’t sure he could keep his anger in check and then cut loose.
“I’m so sick and tired of this BS,” he said. “This is right-wing radicalism, sponsored by the GOP, to get you frightened about this, that or the other thing. Every damn time. You want to tell me the country is being taken over by liberals and socialists? This is a lie that gets perpetuated over and over, and it’s a bunch of crap.”
When ordered to lower his voice, Rupp continued, “You wanna stop me? The real threat is crazy Republicanism.”
Boniface and others accused Indivisible 97415 of fomenting scare tactics, saying they were a group of liberals who want to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
“(The group) 97415 is part of a political agenda — part of a socialist agenda at the local, state and federal levels to disarm the people,” Boniface said. “As much as people think this is a conspiracy, this is not. This has been going on for years. They use terminology — ‘common sense gun laws’ — there is no common sense in chipping away at Second Amendment rights. A society armed with facts is a well-armed society and is not easily overtaken.”
Mark Furler, a retired deputy and corrections officer from Gold Beach, compared responsible gun laws with traffic laws.
“The people behind this didn’t really think of all the negative impacts on our law enforcement,” Furler said. “It’s a liability for our county and the safety of citizens.”
Gary Blanchard of Pistol River agreed, saying if the county tries to abridge federal and state laws, it could set taxpayers up for expensive lawsuits.
Both he and Furler urged the board to refer the issue to voters.
Curry County Democrats Chair LauRose Felicity of Brookings noted the U.S. operates under a system of laws that start at the federal level and fall to the local level.
“We have a duty to operate in a system of laws,” Felicity said. “They want all federal and state laws to be fineable acts; that just isn’t legal. Like in the military, the highest general orders everyone around; in the courts, the Supreme Court makes rules for all the lower courts. If we decide to ignore what the supreme, federal and appellate courts say, we lose the power of law. What results do we operate under then? We must uphold the rule of law or we will plunge into chaos.”
Calla Felicity of Brookings noted there are ways the courts can restrict what happens under any constitutional amendment — in this case, banning firearm ownership from felons and the mentally ill. She wondered, too, how law enforcement would be able to discern between county and city jurisdictions to impose the ordinance.
“The egregious misstatements in this proposed ordinance are so complicated and numerous to address (on a ballot),” she said. “My position is to study it and say this is not a thing we need to do.”
Jack Pruitt of Port Orford said laws regulating firearms should be left to legislators.
“So far … not one of those laws have been overturned by the Supreme Court,” he said. “I have full confidence the laws made in Salem are thought-out and practical. As far as this ordinance, I think we’re stepping into territory we don’t belong in. If we did vote for it, that does not mean it would stand the muster if appealed up to the Supreme Court.”
Maryann Rawles said the issues are not as black and white as people were making them out to be.
“Commissioner Boice, you’re incorrect when you say the people in Salem do not support the Second Amendment,” Rawles said. “The question is, how much do Second Amendment rights supercede the rights of us to live peacefully and safely? I’m disappointed this topic has gone off onto immigration, abortion and the liberal left. It reveals the bias of the commissioners and the lack of willingness to look at things objectively. I’m very, very saddened.”
Commissioner Court Boice is an ardent supporter of the ordinance.
“What makes America different is freedom, liberty and how we’ve been able to maintain that for 200 years,” Boice said. “(The Founding Fathers) set that up so people could defend themselves. We have the responsibility to protect ourselves, our family, others, the peace. That’s the way I was raised.”
Boice also blamed Democrats.
“We know there are legislators that don’t believe in the Second Amendment and restrictions are going to grow,” he said. “Every session it gets a little more restrictive, goes a little more. Voters in Portland would take away our rights and freedoms, and this is an opportunity to tell the whole world that we understand what our rights and responsibilities are and (that we’re) willing to go out on a limb and achieve it. It’s up to the commissioners to decide: show some courage or send it to the voters.”
He proposed the issue go to the ballot box.
Paasch said he didn’t know if America would still be in existence if it weren’t comprised of armed citizens.
“I believe America has lasted with the strength and unity we have because most of us grew up holding a gun or knew someone who did,” he said. “The bigger point, if we let everyone in the world know, you come here, we’re going to fight. We have lots of ex-military; we’re not going to let someone come into our land without a fight.
“The fear is the future generation that is starting to weaken,” Paasch continued. “They’re falling in line with what is being taught to them and the gross things they’re being told — babies at full-term have the right to live or not … To have this direction in our county is frightening.”
Paasch said he wasn’t against the proposal, but said he believed some of the language in the ordinance place the sheriff in legal ambiguity, as well. He equated state legislators with crows picking away at a dead animal until nothing is left but noted that an issue of such import should be addressed at the state, not the county, level.
“That’s the deterioration I’ve seen of gun laws in our nation,” Paasch said. “It should not be an issue at the county level. It should be an initiative at the state level. I believe in defending our nation, our families and the land we live in, at all costs. We can’t abide by it unless (it comes from the) state level.”
Boice said commissioners would be derelict in their duty if they let the state Legislature keep moving forward on gun laws.
Commissioner Sue Gold said she believed commissioners needed to decide whether to place the ordinance on the ballot, but had no other comment.
The issue will likely be discussed again in a June commissioner meeting.