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Second Amendment shrines under first court test in Oregon

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – The first forensic test to determine whether local governments can bar police from enforcing certain gun laws is taking place in a rural Oregon county, one of a wave of US counties declaring themselves a Second Amendment sanctuary.

The measure that voters in the Columbia County Logging Area narrowly approved last year bars local authorities from enforcing most federal and state gun laws and could tax thousands of dollars. of fines to those who try.

According to Shawn Fields, an assistant professor of law at Campbell University who follows them, Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions have been passed by some 1,200 local governments in states across the United States, including Virginia, Colorado, New- Mexico, Kansas, Illinois and Florida. Many are symbolic, but some, like in Columbia County, have the force of law.

The movement took off around 2018, as states considered tougher gun laws following mass shootings, including a high school shootout near Parkland, Fla. That killed 17 people and transformed survivors. into high-level gun control activists.

After President Joe Biden took office, Tory lawmakers in several states proposed to ban police from enforcing federal firearms measures, and at least one proposal in Arizona was enacted.

The movement has yet to face a major legal challenge. The Oregon case was brought by Columbia County under an unusual provision of state law that allows a judge to review a measure before it goes into effect. No timetable has been set for a court hearing.

“This will allow the court to tell us if the county can actually refuse to apply certain state laws, and it will tell us how to respect the will of the voters to the extent possible,” said Sarah Hanson, who serves as an attorney. in the conservative-leaning county in deep blue Oregon.

Supporters of the ordinance include the Oregon Firearms Federation, which said in a November statement that “extremists” and “big city radicals” were trying to restrict gun rights.

The group referred to the Portland protests against police brutality which at times turned violent last summer and called the order a “common sense” measure that “would guarantee your right and your ability to defend your life and that of your loved ones ”.

The ordinance would ban the application of laws such as background check requirements and restrictions on carrying a firearm, although it provides exceptions for others, including gun retention. convicted criminals.

The Oregon Firearms Federation did not respond to a request for comment on the court case.

Sheriff Brian Pixley has expressed his support, saying in a March statement that one of his responsibilities is to uphold people’s Second Amendment rights and that he is eager “to move forward with the will. voters ”.

However, the measure is divisive at the local level and four residents have filed court documents opposing it. One of them, Brandee Dudzic, referred to the strict gun safety drills she learned while training military doctors, saying she values ​​the right to own a gun but thinks that should be accompanied by security measures like background checks and secure storage.

A gun store owner in Columbia County said he supported background checks and believed “state law trumps county law.”

“We have to make sure people are safe. We have to make sure people are responsible, ”he said. But as more and more rules are in place, we just need to make sure we’re not over-regulated. “

He spoke on the condition that he was not identified because some of his clients were taking a hard line against gun restrictions and he didn’t want to lose their business.

The Everytown for Gun Safety group is pushing for the measure to be canceled. Chief Executive Officer Eric Tirschwell said it would be the nation’s first judicial test of a Second Amendment sanctuary law.

Everytown argues that the ordinance violates the United States Constitution, which states that federal law supersedes state law, as well as the state constitution and an Oregon statute that gives the state the power to regulate firearms.

The ruling will not have direct effect outside of Oregon but could send a message.

“This case is important and should send the message that where state or local courts attempt to unconstitutionally or illegally strike down gun safety laws, we are ready and we will go to court,” said Tirschwell.

Other laws aimed at mitigating the effect of federal gun restrictions have not worked well in the courts, including a 2009 Montana measure that made state-made guns and ammunition exempt from duty. federal law and a similar measure from 2013 in Kansas.

However, many of the latest waves of measures take a different approach by focusing on local police actions, including penalties such as fines.

In terms of federal law, gun rights advocates may have a successful legal argument under the so-called anti-requisition doctrine, which says that the US government cannot compel state and local authorities to enforce federal law, said law professor Darrell Miller. at Duke Law School and Co-Director of the Faculty of the Duke Center for Firearms Law. He agreed that the Oregon case is the first of its kind.

Local enforcement of state law is another matter. Most states do not have similar provisions in their own legal codes, and the Oregon attorney general has said in court documents that the Columbia County order is “inconsistent” with criminal law and duties. county officials.

“To the extent that the local government is trying to say, ‘We’re not going to enforce state law either’… it’s a much more difficult and complicated position,” Miller said. “State authority over localities is much, much stronger.”


Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City.

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