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.
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.
Voters to consider second amendment ordinance
“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.