Gun rights law leaves legal ambiguity
In the wake of voter approval of a gun rights ordinance, its impact on new legislation remains to be seen.
Voters in Columbia County approved Measure 5-270, called the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance by proponents.
While the measure was approved, its provisions have drawn questions over whether the ordinance is legally enforceable.
The premise of the ordinance was to protect the rights of gun owners to own weapons and ammunition, as laid out in the U.S. Constitution and Oregon Constitution.
As written, the ordinance seeks to preserve the rights of county residents to "keep and bear arms as originally understood; in self-defense and preservation, and in defense of one's community and country," while also ensuring the uninhibited ability to "manufacture, transfer, sell and buy firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition."
Beyond those basic tenets are provisions that restrict local government from using funds or resources to carry out future gun laws that come with any new restrictions. Measure 5-270 also calls for the county sheriff to make determina-
tions about the constitutionality of any newly passed gun laws.
That could create friction, as sheriffs typically aren't tasked with interpreting whether laws are constitutional.
Sheriff-elect Brian Pixley, who currently serves as a lieutenant with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, didn't elaborate on how the ordinance might impact his office, but affirmed his commitment to the Second Amendment.
"It has always been incumbent upon the Sheriff to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens, this includes the second amendment," Pixley stated via email.
One of the main proponents of the ordinance, Christopher Brumbles, wasn't immediately available for comment, but told the Spotlight prior to the
November election that part of the catalyst for the measure was to ensure access to legal ownership of firearms remains unfettered in the face of any potential new legislation.
"Guns are specifically protected in the Constitution," Brumbles said in September, talking about a legal complaint his daughter filed against a St. Helens Walmart for refusing to sell her a gun because she was 18, not 21. "We were warned by our Founding Fathers not to give up liberty for safety or you'll have neither."
Jeff Auxier, district attorney for Columbia County, says the probability of legal challenges, if any, remains to be seen.
"Like most new laws, I don't think anyone can accurately predict how this ordinance will be enforced until cases start to come before our judges and those cases go through the appellate process," Auxier stated by email.
"Regardless of how the court process shakes out, I think that the law is an earnest expression of our community's beliefs regarding their constitutional right to bear arms, and that fact will have an impact on how I prosecute cases," he added. "Personally, I don't see anything in the ordinance that will prevent me from protecting the public as the county's District Attorney."