The Douglas County Board of Commissioners Wednesday voted unanimously to place a Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance on the ballot in November.
The move followed a public hearing where county residents gave a mixture of testimony for and against the measure. Supporters said county residents need to send a clear message to gun control advocates around the state about the gun rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Some urged the commissioners to go ahead and pass the ordinance, rather than waiting for a countywide vote.
Opponents said the ordinance would place the sheriff in legal jeopardy by forcing him to go against state and federal laws, and that gun regulations are necessary to protect children.
The ordinance that will go before voters in November affirms county residents’ right to bear arms, including semi-automatic weapons and high capacity feed systems. It also says residents can possess those firearms without registration requirements, and it gives the Douglas County sheriff the authority to determine what state, federal or local gun regulations are unconstitutional.
Bill Scheufele of Glide said the commissioners should go ahead with the ordinance, even though people would keep their Second Amendment rights whether or not it passed.
“Basically the ordinance that’s going through just confirms the inalienable right that we already have. Whether the ordinance gets voted in or out, we’re not going to lose that right. It’s set in concrete,” he said.
Fred Dayton, chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party, said supporters rallied in favor of the ordinance outside the Douglas County Courthouse Tuesday, and that he strongly favored the commissioners putting the issue before voters.
“We would like for you to adopt it, but we strongly encourage you to send it forward. We believe that it reflects the values of Douglas County,” he said.
Douglas County commissioner candidate Dan Loomis said he supports the ordinance because it will “send a clear message to the rest of the state” about the county’s stance on the Second Amendment, and about what he said are poorly conceived gun control measures like statewide Initiative Petitions 43 and 44.
Retired attorney Diana Wales called the ordinance “ill advised,” and said it is probably unconstitutional and barred by state statute. She said it would put the sheriff in legal jeopardy because the federal courts are traditionally hostile to local officials who ignore state or federal laws. She also said the county could face substantial financial liability if someone was injured or died due to the county refusing to enforce a state or federal gun law.
“A county ordinance can’t change the fact that determining the constitutionality of a law is a function of the courts, not the job of the sheriff,” Wales said.
Melanie MacKinnon of Roseburg said putting the ordinance on the ballot seemed like a waste of time and money, two things she said commissioners have been saying they are short on.
“I would respectfully like you to refocus your time, and our time, and limited resources on the primary operations of this county,” MacKinnon said.
Arlene Anderson of Glide said the ordinance should be rewritten to eliminate references to the Second Amendment. She said no one will vote against the Second Amendment, which she said is “part of the DNA of everyone in this room.” However, she said provisions in the ordinance that aren’t part of the Second Amendment are hiding behind the “smokescreen” of the Second Amendment language.
Retired pediatrician Larry Hall opposes the ordinance and favors background checks, gun safety courses, and laws that would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and people at extreme risk of harming others.
“Gun violence is a major public health crisis in this country. It’s a big deal. Over 30,000 people die every year from gun violence,” he said.
He said school shootings like the February massacre in Parkland, Florida are a “national shame.”
“Parkland breaks the heart of everybody with a heart,” he said.
Donice Smith argued through tears in a comment made following the vote, that gun rights could save kids’ lives. She said if some Umpqua Community College students had guns in their backpacks, the teacher and students who died during the Oct. 1, 2015 shooting there might still be alive today.
Commissioner Tim Freeman noted the commissioners have previously passed resolutions in support of the Second Amendment. He said the commissioners could simply approve an ordinance, but if they did, a later board could change it. However, he said if voters approve the ordinance, future commissioners could not change it.
Commissioner Chris Boice said he wants to see the merits of the ordinance debated, and that people have the right to express their opinion about it. He also said he doesn’t believe the ordinance asks the sheriff to decide solely by himself whether a law is constitutional.