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Sheriff John Gautney expects measure to get challenged in court, calls it unconstitutional

Crook County Sheriff John Gautney has twice spoken out publicly against Measure 114, a controversial gun control measure calling it unconstitutional.

However, at this point, it appears the local sheriff's office will still enforce the law once it takes effect in January.

"Ballot Measure 114 is bad for the state and is a direct attack on your constitutional rights under the Second Amendment," Gautney stated in a public letter posted to the sheriff's office's Facebook page prior to the election. "The proponents of this ballot measure would have you believe that if passed by voters this would prevent acts of violence by the use of firearms. We all want to see the number of violent incidents in our society stopped altogether. However, taking away the responsible law-abiding citizen's rights is not the answer."

Measure 114 qualified for the ballot through a petition drive by a coalition of religious and other organizations. It would require people to complete firearms training before they can obtain permits to purchase guns, and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds each. It is the first gun regulation initiative on the ballot in 22 years, although the Legislature has passed several measures of its own over the past seven years.

Upon passage of Measure 114, Giffords PAC, a gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, lauded voters for approving it.

"After witnessing the heartbreaking tragedy in Uvalde, thousands of Oregonians took a step towards making their communities safer by putting Measure 114 on the ballot," she said in a statement. "Despite strong efforts from gun lobby-backed groups, Oregonians made their voices heard and passed Measure 114. This will undoubtedly save Oregonians lives by implementing background checks, purchaser permits, safety training, and limitations on magazines' size. I'm so grateful to the people of Oregon for paving the way for states across the nation."

However, that view was not shared by the sheriffs throughout Oregon who opposed the measure prior to the election and continued to criticize it after Election Night. Gautney noted that Oregon State Sheriffs Association, which represents all 36 Oregon sheriffs, prepared a letter of opposition to Measure 114 that was included in the voter's pamphlet.

In the days since its passage, four county sheriffs have publicly stated that they will not enforce it, including Jefferson County Sheriff Jackson Pollock who called the measure "a violation of the United States Constitution and contrary to current federal court precedent."

Gautney doubled down on his views, issuing a follow-up statement after the election, saying he continues to be "adamantly opposed to this ill-conceived attempt to restrict our right to legal firearm ownership" and adding that it is his belief that Measure 114 will be challenged in the courts on the grounds of being unconstitutional, among other legal issues.

Gautney went on to point out that the measure passed by a majority vote of the people and that unless legal challenges delay its scheduled implementation, it will become law on Jan. 15. While he acknowledged that voter majority, he noted that in Oregon a handful of counties are capable of out-voting the rest of the state and many times, that vote is against the wishes of rural counties in the rest of Oregon.

In Crook County, 80.51% of votes opposed Measure 114, joining 29 other counties that rejected the measure. Of those counties, 21 had a no vote count of 60% or greater. The only counties to approve Measure 114 were Multnomah (74.09%), Washington (61.13%), Hood River (60.57%), Benton (59.94%), Lane (53.57%) and Lincoln (51.6%).

In addition to calling the measure unconstitutional and a violation of Second Amendment rights, Gautney stressed that it will "put a huge strain on our already strained operation in the sheriff's office." "In the coming weeks, we will be running different scenarios on how we can address this issue without drastic changes in our operations and still provide the services to the public," he continued. "I will be making decisions on where priorities will be placed and use staff in the areas that are needed most and are mandated."

Breaking down those priorities, Gautney explained that county jail operation is mandated and will be staffed at an adequate level 24 hours a day. With patrol operation, he would give top priority to crimes against persons and major property crimes. On lower priority calls, Gautney said deputies may be unable to respond due to lack of availability.

"Violations of Measure 114 will be handled with discretion as this will fall within our lower priority calls," he added.

Gautney said he has already taken numerous calls from citizens regarding how the sheriff's office will respond to Measure 114. He said Oregon State Police, in cooperation with local law enforcement, are working on a process for permitting that will be standardized statewide, but he has no idea how soon that will become available.

"As your sheriff, I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that as soon as we have permits available, I will not hinder you from being able to exercise your Second Amendment right if you wish to purchase a firearm should this become law," he said.

Meanwhile, Gautney foresees the measure getting challenged in court on the basis of being unconstitutional, possibly very soon.

"As we move through this mess over the next few weeks, I will do my best to keep our citizens updated with how this is progressing," he said.


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