Counties in Oregon are passing ordinances to try to bypass a state gun law that restricts the transfer of firearms between two private parties.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act, passed in 2015, states that two people cannot buy or sell a firearm from each other without “appearing with transferee before gun dealer to request criminal background check.” Gov. Kate Brown described the law as “an important step forward in the effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others whom the law has determined should not have them.”
Several counties in Oregon that disagree with the law, such as Coos County and Wheeler County, have passed ordinances to give the county sheriff the power to ignore gun laws the county deems unconstitutional. They also “prohibited the use of county funds or resources to enforce any law that impedes the right to bear arms,” such as, “Registration requirements for legally owned firearms,” and, “Restrictions pertaining to magazine or clip capacity and ammunition type.”
In the past few weeks, several more county commissioners have heard similar ordinances, Oregon News Service reported.
Gun rights activists such as Rob Taylor of Coos County hope the ordinances create Second Amendment “sanctuary counties.”
“The same way Oregon has become a sanctuary state for immigration,” he told Oregon News Service.
Yet, even though counties have been passing these measures since 2015, the question of whether or not they are legal is still being debated today.
A state pre-emption law states that the authority to regulate certain aspects of firearm sales and restrictions are “vested solely in the [state] Legislative Assembly,” meaning the ordinances are “largely very symbolic,” Ceasefire Oregon Executive Director Penny Okamoto told Oregon News Service.
Officials agree that the main problem is the lack of mental health services in Oregon, especially evident after a U.S. Department of Justice report published in 2014 said that Oregon is far behind in providing “an adequate array or volume of services in the community.”
Oregon has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and firearms are the commonest form of suicide in the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
“You can pass all these ordinances you want but that’s not really taking a look at the fact that a lot of people in these rural counties are using their guns to kill themselves,” Okamoto told Oregon News Service. “And that’s an issue that really needs to be addressed.”