MEDFORD — The Ashland City Council oversaw a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal to ban people from openly carrying loaded guns in public.
When it was first proposed, the measure drew threats of a lawsuit and of a boycott of the Southern Oregon tourist town, but the council has backed away from provisions that would regulate gun storage.
Carrying a loaded gun in public is legal in Oregon, so long as it’s not concealed. In that case, the gun owner needs a permit.
But local jurisdictions can require that guns carried openly be unloaded, and a number reportedly have.
Portland is among them, and the state Supreme Court has upheld that provision, said Ashland City Attorney David Lohman.
A group called Citizens for a Safe Ashland proposed the ordinance and called for the city to regulate gun storage to ensure that weapons are kept out of the hands of youngsters.
The storage provision drew the most objections. Gun rights advocates said Oregon law reserves that authority for the state government.
Lohman said it could cost more than $150,000 to defend such a provision in court.
Police said anyone who wants to carry a gun to the council meeting at the Ashland Civic Center must have a concealed carry permit, because it’s a public building.
During a previous session on the gun legislation, gun rights advocates brought their openly displayed guns to the meeting, leading to an argument outside between opponents and proponents of the proposed gun regulations.
Council members have a number of options besides passing the proposed ordinance. Among them are referring proposed gun regulations to the voters, petitioning the Legislature for action or even adopting a declaration that Ashland does not welcome people carrying loaded weapons in public.