A trio of Redmond residents would like to give voters a chance to establish a sanctuary county for firearm possession. To that end, the three — Jerrad Robison, Verlin Belcher and Bruce Soper II — filed paperwork with the Deschutes County clerk and believe they can gather the 4,144 signatures needed to qualify the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance for the November ballot.
Dismiss the proposal as legally dodgy extremism if you wish. But the three have a point, and it’s one that should be taken seriously by anyone who has bemoaned Oregon’s yawning urban-rural divide, as elected officials in Oregon have done for years.
The initiative would prohibit the county from using public funds, facilities, employees and so on to enforce laws that infringe upon “the right of the People to keep and bear arms.” The county sheriff would be given the unenviable task of determining which federal, state or local laws should get the don’t-enforce treatment. Lucky Shane Nelson.
There’s nothing unique about this proposal — a similar measure will be on the ballot in Columbia County in November. Nor, for that matter, is the local effort particularly recent. Robison says he’s been working on the proposal for over a year, but has gotten little traction with local elected officials. So he and his fellow petitioners decided to file an initiative.
It owes much of the attention it’s received, rather, to the existence of a statewide gun-control effort, Initiative Petition 43, which would impose restrictions supported only weeks ago by Gov. Kate Brown. To read IP 43 is to understand Robison’s sense that “we’re kind of being muffled over here east of the Cascades” and his desire “to let rest of state know we have a voice too.” The county measure is less a workable policy than an act of protest, an invitation to voters to participate in a mass walkout of sorts.
What’s so bad about IP 43? Declaring thousands of Oregonians who’ve done nothing wrong potential felons, for starters.
The statewide measure would prohibit various weapons and accessories, most notably what it categorizes as “assault weapons,” as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The measure defines assault weapons fairly broadly. A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle less than 30 inches long would be considered an assault rifle regardless of its magazine capacity, for instance. But IP 43 is aimed primarily at AR-15-type weapons: semiautomatics with detachable magazines and various scary-looking features like bayonet mounts.
The measure would prohibit the sale of assault weapons and so on to the general population. Oregonians who own such weapons and magazines would have to get rid of them or render them inoperable. Alternatively, they could register them with the state, but they’d have to do so within 120 days of the law’s passage. And even then, the measure would strictly limit where and under what circumstances the owners of registered weapons could possess them.
Violating the law would be a felony.
Given the number of gun-related deaths that occur in this country, it is appropriate to consider reasonable restrictions. Ideally, such consideration would be done by elected officials who are committed to respecting the interests and rights of gun owners even as they seek to reduce gun-related harm. This isn’t an easy or simple task, which is why legislative deliberation tends to produce incremental change.
IP 43, by contrast, ignores the interests of thousands of law-abiding Oregonians in pursuit of a massive change. In doing so, it sets a felony trap for anyone who, for whatever reason, fails to destroy or register currently legal weapons and magazines within a four-month window.
Citizen initiatives do, of course, tend to make dramatic rather than incremental changes, so nobody should be too surprised that IP 43 seeks the gun control nuclear option. But what should concern fair-minded Oregonians is how closely it mirrors opinions expressed only weeks ago by Brown in an essay for InStyle. A “pragmatic approach to gun reform,” Brown argued, is one in which “a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” is merely “a good start.” One wonders where, in the governor’s view, a “good finish” is.
While Brown, coyly, refuses to take a position on IP 43 until it qualifies for the ballot, it couldn’t be more obvious where she’s inclined to land. So much for being the governor of all Oregonians, rural and urban, gun owners and gun opponents.
Seeking to establish Second Amendment sanctuaries in comparatively rural counties like Columbia and Deschutes may not be a good idea. But the people behind such efforts are right to feel unfairly targeted by Oregon’s politically dominant urbanites, including the one who holds the state’s highest elective office.