Oregon City Police Chief Jim Band has long known how dangerous guns are for his community.

Band advocated against the proliferation of gun violence before Reserve Officer Robert Libke died last week from a gunshot wound in the face during a weekend confrontation with a deranged man.

Libke, 41, had been volunteering with OCPD since 2009 and was remembered at ceremonies week as a caring person who always gave extra to his community. Lawrence Cambra, 88, shot himself at his burning Linn Avenue house in Oregon City before SWAT personnel arrived.

This wasn’t Oregon City’s first time this year that an elderly man with a gun lost control. On July 27, Oregon City police arrested 80-year-old Baylis Youngblood for menacing, pointing a firearm at another, and disorderly conduct after he confronted Ice House Bar customers while armed with his cane, his 16-gauge double-barrel shotgun and four shotgun shells. Walking the two blocks to Main Street from his house, he was reportedly angry at what he perceived to be loud music coming from an outdoor event at the bar.

Throughout a year that has brought more than a fair share of tragedy to the Oregon City area, Band spoke out against gun violence even when he was a lieutenant spokesman for the department, before he was sworn in as a police chief this spring.

In January, Oregon City police cited a man for menacing, and revoked his concealed weapons permit and handgun, after he allegedly pulled his weapon on another man outside the Tee Time Bar and Grill on Molalla Avenue. Police tracked down Mark M. Jacobson, 50, to his home on Silver Fox Parkway in Oregon City and seized his handgun and his concealed weapons permit.

Band thought this story had relevance because people being “a little more uneasy about their safety” are obtaining concealed weapons permits and buying guns “in droves right now,” in light of shooting events at Clackamas Town Center and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

“This is an example of what can go wrong when people think without acting; a gun is not a problem-solver,” Band said in January. “It can be an effective tool, but only with a lot of critical thought and training before application.”

A 9-year-old Oregon City girl was shot dead at about 5 p.m. on April 14. Shayla May Shonneker, a transfer student to John Wetten Elementary School in Gladstone, was in her 12th Street backyard when a handgun her mother’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Joseph Wolters, was handling inside the house accidentally fired through the wall, striking her in the head.

Then on July 16, a reportedly insane shotgun-wielding man named Micah Boyd Anderson, 32, rained pellets on a neighbor’s house on Oregon City’s Polk Street after shooting up his own duplex.

Not all incidents involving guns go awry. On March 31, a 22-year-old Oregon City woman with a concealed-handgun permit told police that a male assailant fled on foot from Eighth and JQ Adams streets after she produced her weapon.

But the incredible availability and lethal potential of firearms in Oregon have certainly done more evil than good: DHS statistics show that fewer than 4 percent of the state’s gun deaths were legal interventions or unintentional shootings between 2006 and ‘10; 83 percent of 2,036 Oregonian firearm deaths during that time were suicides, followed by homicide at 13 percent. Seeing an uptick in incidents involving concealed weapons, Band wanted to address the community fear that trend represents.

When accepting the helm from former Chief Mike Conrad in April, Band said that OCPD needed to put more focus on educating the public about what they can do to protect themselves.

After a man on drugs reportedly was intimidating some neighbors earlier this year, Band assigned an officer to each of the neighborhood associations, so there isn’t a “gap” in service. Now that neighbors have a regular police liaison to talk with on a regular basis, Band planned to have OCPD keep honing in on such good opportunities. At a City Commission meeting last Wednesday, he talked about how officers will receive extra training to avoid psychological effects of returning to Linn Avenue or other incidents involving a possible shooter.

We share in Oregon City’s grief at the loss of Libke and encourage OCPD to continue its efforts to control gun violence. We agree with Band that this should be an ongoing effort, not just right after a shooting.

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