It’s not clear how much legal clout a Baker County voter-approved “Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance” would have.
But we applaud the county’s Republican Party for trying to get the ordinance on the November general election ballot.
Quixotic though it might be, the initiative petition would at a minimum give county voters a chance to express their disdain for the statewide campaign for Initiative 43. It has pretty much the opposite goal — to persuade, or in some cases to require, thousands of law-abiding Oregonians to give up some of their guns for such specious reasons as the type of grip they have or because the firearm includes a place to affix a bayonet. (Bayonets would remain legal, although we can’t imagine who, besides World War I re-enactors, would care.)
Proponents of Initiative 43 have until July 6 to gather about 88,000 signatures to put their measure on the November ballot. Initiative 43 makes the federal assault weapons ban, in effect from 1994 to 2004, seem almost quaintly permissive by comparison.
Oregon’s Initiative 43 would go well beyond that federal law, and not only by including considerably more types of guns, including certain semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns.
The more noteworthy aspect of the initiative — and the one that seems so clearly to run afoul of the Second Amendment — would require the owners of certain guns and ammunition magazines to either turn them over to police, render them permanently unusable, sell them to a licensed dealer or, if they want to keep these previously legal items in usable form, register them with police and submit to a criminal background check.
(A check the law-abiding gun owner might have to pay for, no less.)
The federal law, by contrast, allowed people who already legally owned guns affected by the law to keep them — no requirement to register or to undergo a background check.
The ordinance that Baker County Republicans are promoting would prohibit the county from using money or employees to enforce any laws that infringe on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. The ordinance would also require the sheriff to review local, state and federal laws to determine whether any violate the federal or state constitutions.
The ordinance doesn’t cite Initiative 43 — nor does it need to.
Tung Yin, a professor at Lewis & Clark College, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he believes a state law would supersede a county ordinance when it comes to gun control.
He might be right. But it seems to us that the constitutional grounds for Initiative 43 are even shakier.
Yet no matter how unlikely it is that Initiative 43 would triumph in a legal tussle, we agree with Baker County Republicans that voters should make it clear, at the ballot box, that they reject efforts to infringe on their constitutional rights.
We hope the county ordinance makes it to the November ballot — petitioners will have to gather at least 427 signatures by Aug. 17 — and that voters approve it.