Two counties in Oregon approved ordinances this month penalizing police officers and other county employees if they choose to enforce many of the state’s gun control laws, including laws that govern carrying a concealed firearm, background check requirements, and laws that govern barrel length, magazine size, and suppressors.
Gun rights groups worked in the state to place the measure on the ballot in several Oregon counties, and voters in Columbia County and Umatilla County approved the ordinances.
“All we were doing was trying to get rid of all of the regulation that we believe are designed to eliminate gun ownership,” Rob Taylor, a gun rights activist, told Oregon Live.
The measures passed in the two counties are slightly different, but the ordinance passed by voters in Umatilla County prohibits the county and its employees – including law enforcement – from “devoting any resources or participating in any way in the enforcement of any law or regulation that affected an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, firearm accessories, or ammunition.”
The measure mentions several specific gun control laws that are not to be enforced, including taxes and fees on firearm purchases, background check requirements, restrictions on the ownership of semi-automatic rifles, and restrictions on carrying firearms (open or concealed).
The measure allows police to enforce laws prohibiting felons from owning firearms, but it levies hefty fines on those who enforce other laws: if a deputy or police officer enforces a gun law, they would face prosecution for a misdemeanor and possible fines of up to $2,000. The agency that employs them also would face up to $4,000 in fines.
As with the Second Amendment sanctuary laws passed in Virginia and other states, it’s unclear how these ordinances would stand up in court.
The Oregon Department of Justice hasn’t weighed in on the measures, according to Oregon Live. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum “doesn’t have an official view” of the proposals, said agency spokeswoman Karynn Fish. She said the agency and Rosenblum “are certainly on the record supporting and defending sensible gun regulations,” but they have no “formal opinion on these measures because none has been requested” by lawmakers or state agencies.
Sanctuary cities protecting illegal immigrants from federal laws provide a precedent for the sanctuary concept, but those localities refuse to spend money to enforce federal laws. These Second Amendment sanctuary ordinances prohibit local officials from enforcing state laws, which they have sworn to uphold.
That difference could be a difficult barrier for these laws to overcome, according to Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center.
“I actually will tell you right out front, I am fully on board with the concept,” Boldin told Oregon Live. “I am with the gun rights people in concept, but I think they have crafted these so poorly that in practice they actually do nothing.”
Whether or not these laws stand up in court, they can have a positive effect for the gun rights movement. The momentum generated by the Second Amendment sanctuary movement in Virginia resulted in one of the largest pro-gun rallies at a state capital in history, and the efforts of activists have been credited with blocking the “assault weapon” ban promised by Virginia’s anti-gun governor.