The Jefferson County Commission approved a resolution Wednesday to make the county a Second Amendment sanctuary, a symbolic gesture to support the gun rights of residents.
Commissioners said the action is intended to publicly state their position and assure residents the county will not put any resources toward efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights. The goal was not to bypass any existing gun laws, Commissioner Wayne Fording said.
The Second Amendment protects the right of U.S. citizens to own and carry firearms.
“This is a statement,” Fording said. “I personally don’t see where it gives me the right to break any existing laws, whether they be state or federal. I think it’s just a statement from your board.”
Prior to the unanimous vote Wednesday, the resolution drew public comment from 11 people. Six were in favor and five were opposed.
Those against the resolution worried it was a stepping stone to change local laws, similar to an ordinance that passed in Columbia County that prevents county officials from enforcing firearm regulations, such as background checks and registration.
Residents in opposition also questioned the timing of the resolution, since it was brought up a week after state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 554. The new law bans the possession of guns in the state Capitol and Portland International Airport and requires gun owners to securely store their guns when not in use.
“Why now?” Madras resident Vickie Johnson asked at the Wednesday meeting. “I think this piece of illegal nullification is an attempt to sideswipe the governor’s signature on Senate Bill 554.”
Fording and fellow commissioners, Kelly Simmelink and Mae Huston, insisted the resolution was in response to several residents asking for the local designation.
“I just feel a very strong obligation to represent the people who have asked us to do this resolution and it has been done elsewhere and I’m very strongly in support of it,” Huston said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins was among those Wednesday who spoke in favor of the resolution.
The sheriff described himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment. In his 35-year law enforcement career, he has never felt unsafe interacting with armed individuals, Adkins said.
In fact, Adkins would like to see more law abiding citizens own guns, he said.
“It’s not something that we fear,” Adkins said. “I ask that you as citizens protect yourselves and be prepared.”
A portion of the resolution says the County Commission believes the criminal misuse of firearms is due to criminals not obeying the law and that misuse is not a reason to deny the rights of others.
The focus on criminal misuse reminded Madras resident Judy Embanks of the quote from National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
Embanks, and others who spoke in opposition, said that quote is an oversimplification and does not account for other factors that have led to mass shootings, such as easy access to guns during a mental health crisis.
“If everyone who supports this resolution is a good guy with a gun, why do we need this resolution,” Embanks said Wednesday. “Where were all the good guys at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Florida Pulse (nightclub), Mandalay Bay, Virginia Tech, Umpqua Community College, Charleston, South Carolina, etc., etc.”