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Douglas County Sheriff reacts to proposed gun control legislation

This year, Oregon legislators will consider banning adults younger than 21 from buying guns. They’ll also decide whether to mandate that guns be kept under lock and key.

The most extensive of a handful of gun control proposals this session is Senate Bill 501, a catchall bill that includes both the above provisions along with a number of others. It also sets limits on how many guns and how much ammunition can be purchased.

Photo courtesy of DCSO  


In an interview with The News-Review on Thursday, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin explained why he thinks SB 501 is so extreme it’s unlikely to become law and would probably be found unconstitutional if it did. But he also said he’d leave it to the courts to decide, rather than using the county’s new Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance to refuse enforcement of its provisions.

“Generally speaking, I’m opposed to the entire Senate bill. I think the whole thing in its entirety is irresponsible and overreaching,” Hanlin said.

SB 501 was proposed by Lake Oswego students affiliated with Students for Change, a national student movement formed in response to the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Proponents of gun control argue it could reduce the number of such shootings, along with accidental shootings and teen suicides. Opponents say they are an infringement of Second Amendment rights.

Hanlin said SB 501’s provision barring 18- to 20-year-olds from obtaining guns doesn’t make sense.

“Men and women in this country can go to war and lay down their lives defending our freedom in the military at age 18. I don’t know why they can’t possess a gun in their private lives at the age of 18,” he said.

He also believes the mandate that guns have a trigger lock or be kept in a locked container defeats the purpose of owning a gun for self-defense.

“In a situation where you need one for home defense, you’re probably not going to have time to remove a lock or get it out of a typical safe in order to protect yourself or your family,” he said.

He said the ammunition limits listed in SB 501 are also unreasonable, especially a section mandating gun magazines hold no more than five rounds. There are hardly any guns made today with magazines holding such a small number of rounds, he said.

SB 501 also limits what an individual can purchase within 30 days. The limits are 20 rounds of ammunition, one rifle or shotgun, and one handgun within that time period. Hanlin said he doesn’t see why the government should have the right to restrict those purchases.

On the other hand, SB 501’s permit restrictions based on past behavior, such as prior convictions and restraining order violations are more valid in Hanlin’s view. These are similar to some existing rules, he said. Felons and some domestic abusers are already banned from purchasing guns.

SB 501 also adds a requirement that a gun safety course be completed before a permit to purchase a gun can be issued. Hanlin said while it makes sense to require a safety course for a concealed handgun permit, it’s not reasonable to extend the requirement to people who just want a gun for home protection.

“I think that’s stepping dangerously close to violating our Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Despite his concerns about most of SB 501’s provisions, Hanlin said he doesn’t see himself using the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance to refuse enforcement if the legislature were to pass the bill. He said the ordinance was really intended as more of a “formal statement” by county residents about Second Amendment rights.

“Those sort of questions are going to have to be answered by the courts and by the high court, as far as the constitutionality of any law that passed that we feel infringes upon our Second Amendment rights,” he said.

If the bill passes and the courts don’t overturn it, Hanlin said he’d expect things to get pretty heated here in Douglas County and in other rural parts of the state.

“It’s going to result in a revolt. There’s going to be a lot of civil unrest if people can no longer buy ammunition or only limit the purchase to one gun every so many days,” he said.

More modest proposals before the legislature include fewer restrictions. Senate Bill 87 just includes the age 21 limit, while Senate Bill 275 centers on keeping guns locked up and reporting when they’re stolen.

Eastwood students rewarded for work with steelhead hatchery with more fishing

Lily Nichols, 11, went fishing with her uncle when she was 5, but she hasn’t been since and she never caught a fish.

Until Thursday morning.

“Hoping today’s my day, since I’ve never caught anything,” Lily said before climbing into a boat with three other fifth-grade students from Eastwood Elementary School during Kids’ Day at Cooper Creek Reservoir.

About 20 guides broke the 70 students into small groups and took them out in their boats and helped them bait and cast their lines. The event’s director, Chris Baumgartner, said the day is meant to reward the students for their work with the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery on the school campus.

Janelle Polcyn / JANELLE POLCYN/The News-Review 

Eastwood Elementary School fifth graders cast their lines into Cooper Creek Reservoir near Sutherlin on Thursday morning during a fishing derby.

“Everybody from the community has kind of pitched in,” Baumgartner said. “A lot of these kids have either never been in a boat or never been fishing. Kids’ Day is really one of the special days we have for the fishing derby.”

The event is hosted as part of the Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby, which raises money for enhancement projects for the local rivers. In the past 26 years, the derby has raised more than $1.5 million for fish habitat restoration projects.

“The results are yes, it is making a difference,” Baumgartner said.

The derby started with student day on Wednesday, where seniors from local high schools got more targeted education about collecting, spawning and tracking steelhead.

“This day is all about the kids, the next two days are for the adults,” said Dave Loomis, who was a previous director.

Janelle Polcyn / JANELLE POLCYN/The News-Review  

Fishing guides assist Eastwood Elementary School fifth graders as they participate in a fishing derby Thursday morning at Cooper Creek Reservoir near Sutherlin.

Loomis said Kids’ Day has been held for about 20 years, almost as long as the derby, which is in its 27th year.

Before the students even got off the two buses, Oregon State Troopers, including Aaron Baimbridge, got on the buses and gave the students a quick course in safety. Straight from the bus doors, the students lined up for lifejackets donated by North River Boats.

“We do inspections for the guides,” Baimbridge said. “Also, we enjoy being able to spend time with the kids and make a good impression on them. Hopefully we’ll help them have a good day.”

The students shouted at each other from their boats, all within about a 30-foot radius of the end of the dock. Some caught three or more fish and returned them to the water while others, like Isaac Madison, 11, watched and willed the fish to stop nibbling and start biting.

“The biggest fish I ever caught was 25 pounds,” Isaac said. “Now I can’t catch anything.”

Isaac’s guide, Gary Lewis, knew that the students who were catching fish had a serious advantage over most other anglers since he watched with the students as two trucks from Willamette Valley fisheries shot thousands of fish into the water.

“It’s just fun to come out with the derby and help these kids fish,” Lewis said.

After about an hour on the water in the drift boats, Baumgartner got the kids to line up against the fence, still in their life jackets, as five jet boats raced up from around the bend. The kids loaded up in the boats in groups of three to five and rode up the creek. For some, it was their first time in a jet boat.

MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review 

Eastwood Elementary School fifth graders go for a high speed boat ride after participating in a fishing derby at Cooper Creek Reservoir near Sutherlin on Thursday.

Fifth-grade teacher Camron Pope convinced his students J’leigh Thacker and Litia Thompson to sit in the back of the boat and told the driver, “The wetter the better.”

J’leigh’s jaw dropped when the first big wave came. She held on to the metal railing whenever she wasn’t holding her hood down to the keep the water out of her eyes. By the end, both girls were laughing at how wet their clothes were and trusted Pope’s promise they would warm up quickly.

MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review  

Eastwood Elementary School fifth graders enjoy high speed boat rides after participating in a fishing derby at Cooper Creek Reservoir near Sutherlin on Thursday.

“I’ve flown in a freaking plane before and this is scarier,” Keagan Applegarth, 11, said after a few bumps in the water. “Never again.”

He gripped his seat with two hands and moved for a better hold whenever he was given advice while Isaac and another student laughed through the water that came pouring over the sides on big turns and quick stops.

When Keagan saw the dock that signaled the end of the trip he looked to the driver and asked, “Can we go again?”

Photo courtesy of DCSO  


Rift between City Councilor Ashley Hicks and other Roseburg city officials continues

There’s a persistent rift at the City of Roseburg surrounding City Councilor Ashley Hicks.

At the Jan. 14 city council meeting, Hicks pressed Mayor Larry Rich to state on the record why he decided not appoint her chair of any city commissions — as mayor, Rich has sole authority to do so.

Rich said he made the decision because Hicks consistently acts disrespectfully to city officials.

Email records requested by Hicks and The New-Review show current and former city officials and Roseburg residents have complained to Rich about Hicks’ actions as a city councilor. Rich said he has also received complaints via phone from city commissioners who stated they would resign their positions if they had to continue working with Hicks. He declined to name who made those complaints. The phone calls are not part of public record.

After the Jan. 14 meeting, city councilors Brian Prawitz, Tom Ryan and Andrea Zielinski emailed Rich voicing support for the mayor’s decision to not appoint Hicks.

The rift illustrates many city officials’ distaste for Hicks’ often boisterous demeanor and her frequent criticisms of city government on Facebook. But Hicks’ supporters say they back her because she is willing to aggressively call attention to city issues such as the effects of camping in public.

The conflict was on display again at Monday’s council meeting.

Prawitz abruptly interrupted Hicks while she questioned Wayne Patterson, executive director of the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, about whether the partnership’s activities have facilitated economic development in Roseburg.

Hicks challenged Patterson about the benefits of one of the partnership’s projects — trading cards for kids showing information about possible career paths.

The partnership receives city funds, and two Roseburg city officials, City Manager Lance Colley and City Council President Tom Ryan, are board members.

None of the $30,000 used for the trading card project came from the city, according to Patterson. He said it was funded by the Southwest Oregon Workforce Investment Board — a nonprofit that uses state and federal funds to invest in workforce development.

“Are these recyclable?” Hicks asked as she held up the packaging of the trading cards. “How are you able to track the success of this one project? Because this is a lot of garbage per student, per class. That’s 30 students per class and how many classes in each school. I mean, this is a lot of refuse, a lot of litter.”

Patterson thinks the project has been successful because a website the partnership created to supplement the trading cards has over 700 unique visits.

As Hicks continued to question Patterson for several minutes about the trading cards, other city councilors shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Shawn Clark, the partnership’s operations manager, looked at city staff and mouthed, “Wow.”

After other city councilors voiced support for the partnership’s work, Rich said it was time to move on from the subject. Hicks said she had one more “super quick” thing to add.

“There are 36 cards here and I counted five that have somebody of — five black people and one that might be questionable on whether or not he’s of a different ethnicity,” Hicks said.

Prawitz then interrupted Hicks and said to Patterson: “I would like to say what a great job you’ve done. Incredible vision, collaboration, leaders working together, cooperation from all kinds of entities producing amazing results and a vision for the future of Douglas County that is spectacular. Thank you for being here.”

Patterson said in an interview that Hicks’ line of questioning was a typical example of her being uninformed.

Rich said Hicks frequently questions people like she did Monday.

“She always has to have the last word,” Rich said of Hicks in an interview. He added that Hicks often unfairly criticizes city officials and others involved with city operations.

Rich said he has spoken with Hicks “many times” about complaints regarding her “rude” or “inappropriate” behavior.

While complaints via phone not part of public record, several emails to Rich that were requested by Hicks and The News-Review show complaints about her.

Betsy Cunningham and Tommy Smith, residents of Hicks’ Ward 4, and Kerry Atherton, a Roseburg Planning Commission member, complained in 2017 about Hicks’ efforts to remove a locked metal biohazard box in Micelli Park.

Tensions rise at Micelli Park as group gathers to clean items left by the homeless

Bookended by police vehicles, the parking lot of Micelli Park in southeast Roseburg served as an ad hoc town hall meeting Thursday afternoon. Two groups — one self-tasked with bagging up garbage brought to the area by transients, the other standing in avid support of the homeless — stood apart, converging only momentarily before the conversation ultimately diminished into a shouting match.

“We have worked for the last 12 months to get sharps containers placed in specific locations around downtown, and south-town,” Atherton wrote to Hicks, Rich, former Ward 4 City Councilor Steve Kaser and resident Ruth Smith in April 2017. “Now that we have support from the HIV Alliance of Eugene, and Dr. (Bob) Dannenhoffer of Public Health, you need to take us more seriously. Whatever your problem is with Ruth and Tom Smith, that should be kept private between the three of you.”

Cunningham and Smith started a petition that summer to remove Hicks from her position after homeless rights advocates and opponents of camping in public faced off at Micelli Park over efforts to clean up riverfront camps.

Other emails between Rich and Alyssa McConnel, who was director of the Downtown Roseburg Association at the time, detail a dispute between Hicks and McConnel from October 2017.

The dispute occurred when McConnell refused to give Hicks a ride back to her hotel in Oregon City after the Oregon Main Street Conference. McConnel told Hicks she would be embarrassed to give her a ride because her car was messy, according to Hicks. McConnell didn’t drive Hicks to the event.

“What seemed to be ‘no problem,’ turned into a big catastrophe of verbal slander to my colleagues the next day,” McConnel wrote to Rich and Kaser. “Ms. Hicks has a lot of passion, but the way she delivers her message and upholds her feelings in public eye is unacceptable.”

In another email, Rich said he advised City Councilor Alison Eggers that she “has the right to tell someone to stop speaking or ask staff to help in getting the police to remove someone from the meeting” after a dispute between Hicks, Eggers and other city staff at a Parks Commission meeting. Eggers chairs the Parks Commission.

On Monday, Hicks said in an interview that the complaints shown in the emails were “old news.” She isn’t surprised there aren’t more complaints in public record, she said. But she added she’s frustrated Rich referenced other complaints as the rationale for not appointing her to chair a city commission.

“All of us at our elected official training classes that the League (of Oregon Cities) does, we’re told not to communicate in email,” Hicks said. “Everything should be done over the phone.” That’s to prevent communications from becoming public record, she said.

Rich’s decision to not appoint her to chair a city commission is unfounded, Hicks said.

She said her often aggressive demeanor is a response to what she sees as inaction by the rest of the city on issues she’s concerned with such as the effects of camping in public.

“The truth is that we’re going to reach our goals if we can think about positive ways to get there instead of trying to think of all the ways that we’re not,” Hicks said. “It’s a mindset. And if I have to piss people off to try to shake their mindset then dammit it’s going to be worth it.”

Hicks’ supporters want her to have that mindset.

“I have found Ashley Hicks easy to work with and refreshingly direct,” said Roseburg resident Ken Ferguson in a Jan. 15 email to Rich. The effects of people camping in public have gone unaddressed on Rich’s watch for decades, Ferguson said in an interview with The News-Review. He added that Hicks possesses an energy that he doesn’t see anywhere else in the city.

Rich told The News-Review the city welcomes any ideas, including Hicks’, about how to solve such issues. He said Hicks’ energy is valuable, but solutions require teamwork, and Hicks continues to alienate city officials.

“If you want to get people to join in on what you feel is important, you don’t rip them and attack them and then say, ‘By the way I want you to support my idea,’” Rich said. “You work with them and you say, ‘Here’s what I believe in, can you support this too?’”