The Crook County Court is reaching out to organizations in Oregon and throughout the country to help battle proposed gun legislation that officials consider extreme and unconstitutional.
Judge Seth Crawford initiated a discussion Wednesday about a letter the group intends to send to the National Rifle Association and other organizations in hopes that they can do the heavy lifting legally and oppose Senate Bill 501 and other gun control bills under consideration in the Oregon Legislature this session.
"The gun rights in our state have been pushed, in my opinion, the wrong direction," Crawford said Wednesday, during a County Court meeting. He went on to note that SB 501 includes provisions that lower the capacity that guns can legally possess to five rounds and limits the amount of rounds of ammunition a person can purchase to 20 per month. He added that the bill makes gun owners criminally liable if they do not lock up their firearms adequately and someone steals a gun and uses it to harm another person.
"These things seem extreme to me, and I think it is time to stand up and do something about it," Crawford said.
The letter makes a point of addressing the value of firearm access for Crook County residents and highlights how the proposed legislation would cause residents problems.
"Caring for their livestock and crops, feeding their families and protecting themselves and their families are just some of the reasons that firearms are important to our residents," the letter states. "We agree with legislators of both parties that innocent people being killed or injured by gun violence is unacceptable. However, legislation being proposed will likely have unintended consequences for the county's residents and their way of life. Many of our ranchers have gun racks in their trucks, just like other tools. To hold them liable if someone steals a gun out of their truck and uses it to commit a crime will have a devastating impact on their ranches and families."
The letter is intended to gather help and support from organizations that have more resources to take the legislation to task. Crawford stressed that the county cannot afford to legally challenge the constitutionality of the legislation at either the state or federal level.
"I think it is important to get somebody to take it to the Oregon State Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to show that these laws are unconstitutional," he said.
One person in the audience questioned whether the incidents of school shootings and gun violence in other public places were considered when choosing to draft the letter. Crawford in response said that use of weapon for a school shooting or to harm innocent people in any way was not acceptable.
"But we don't think that legal gun owners are the ones that should have to pay for the bad decisions of those people who are doing it," he remarked.
The majority of the small meeting audience agreed with the letter and expressed appreciation that the county court was willing to distribute it to organizations and push back against gun control legislation.
"The legislation that is being proposed, to say it's scary would be a gross understatement for a number of reasons," said local resident Ston McDaniel. "The idea that we would be limited in how we could defend ourselves is what I really struggle to wrap my head around."
McDaniel went on to say that such laws could put law enforcement officials in a difficult situation. He points out that during their oath of office, officers are sworn to uphold and defend not only the U.S. and Oregon constitutions but also the laws of the state and county.
"If laws are passed that fundamentally violate the constitution, what position does that put our law enforcement in? That is a scary scenario," said McDaniel.
The county court voted 2-0 (Commissioner Jerry Brummer was unable to attend the meeting) to approve the letter for future distribution to other organizations.
"I think this is something we can do as elected officials to use the soapbox that we have to help protect the rights of our citizens," Crawford said.
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