Two Oregon counties passed ballot measures Nov. 3 that effectively make them "sanctuaries" for gun rights, meaning local officials could face criminal penalties for enforcing most local, state and federal firearm regulations.
The backers of the measures seized on property destruction at Portland protests to sell their idea to rural voters.
"Even as Portland politics continues to condone chaos on our streets, efforts continue to make sure you are helpless to protect yourself and your family," the Oregon Firearms Federation wrote in the Columbia County Voters' Pamphlet for the 2020 general election. "The same people who are looting and destroying property are demanding that the police be neutered. Don't stand by while your rights, your liberty, and even your life are placed in jeopardy."
In Columbia County, voters passed Measure 5-278 by a slim margin: 50.78% to 49.22%—a difference of fewer than 500 votes. In Umatilla County, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 30-145 by 62% to 38%. KGW News first reported on the measures on Tuesday.
The two ballot measures, passed in counties on opposite sides of the state, are similar in what they accomplish: Both make it a class A misdemeanor for county officials to participate in the enforcement of any laws or regulations regarding firearm use. They also prohibit local officials from using county assets or funds to aid the state or federal governments in the enforcement of laws or investigations regarding firearms.
Essentially, they mimic the sanctuary laws passed by Portland and other cities that bar local law enforcement from cooperating with the enforcement of federal immigration policies. But instead of protecting undocumented immigrants, these sanctuaries protect guns.
"All laws and regulations which infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms shall be considered null and void and of no effect in Umatilla County, Oregon," the Umatilla County 2020 general election Voters' Pamphlet says.
Regulations that cannot be enforced per the measure include taxing firearms and firearm accessories, any restrictions relating to the ownership of non-fully automatic firearms, and registering, tracking and background-checking related to firearms.
Whether or not the measures will actually be enforceable remains unclear. The Oregon Attorney General's Office said it wasn't sure. (Disclosure: Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW's parent company.)
"The AG and the DOJ are on the record supporting sensible gun safety regulations," says Karynn Fish, spokeswoman for the agency. "DOJ cannot comment on whether the measures are enforceable, because no client has asked for a formal opinion, and the issue has not come up in a lawsuit to which DOJ is a party."
Current Oregon gun laws require firearm sellers to conduct background checks on private purchasers, and for persons seeking a concealed carry permit to be at least 21 and have no outstanding arrest warrants.
Back in 2017, Oregon passed an extreme risk protection order, or ERPO, law similar to other states' "red flag" laws, which allow family members and law enforcement officials to petition a judge to issue an ERPO to temporarily restrict citizens' access to firearms or revoke gun licenses if they show signs, or "red flags," of potentially harming themselves or others.