A growing list of Oregon sheriffs are telling their constituents they won’t enforce voter-approved gun restrictions despite not yet knowing how some aspects of the law will work and not having a clear role in enforcing others, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
In a Nov. 9 Facebook post, Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan said Measure 114, which 50.7% of voters approved the day before, is a terrible law for gun owners, crime victims and public safety. The measure would require a permit to buy a firearm and ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
“I want to send a clear message to Linn County residents that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is NOT going to be enforcing magazine capacity limits,” Duncan wrote in the post, which as of Friday had been shared 12,000 times and garnered 9,300 comments.
Duncan was soon joined by Jefferson County Sheriff Jason Pollock, Wallowa County Sheriff Joel Fish and Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen who also said they would not enforce the new laws.
Pollock said he believes “the provisions in Measure 114 run contrary to previously decided judicial decisions.” Bowen said the law would also be a drain on resources and called it “another attempt at defunding the police at its finest.”
“To the people who chime in with me picking and choosing which laws I want to enforce or not enforce! Hear this!” Bowen exclaimed in his Facebook post. “When it comes to our constitutional rights I’ll fight to the death to defend them. No matter what crazy law comes out of Salem!”
Sheriffs point to short staffs
Measure 114 was passed by voters, not state lawmakers in Salem. Sheriffs are not lawyers and do not interpret the constitution — that is the role of judges.
Bowen and Pollock, as well as the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, did not respond to interview requests.
Duncan said her agency constantly has to manage scarce resources. She said that because a federal court might find magazine bans unconstitutional as early as this spring, she is choosing not to prioritize enforcement.
“I have a hard time saying that we’re going to use resources to go arrest people for something that has a high probability of being found unconstitutional very shortly,” Duncan said in an interview with OPB. “This is where I’m choosing to hold back my resources until that ruling is confirmed or denied.”
Duncan said if the Supreme Court rules the law is constitutional, she may have to rethink her position.
Several other sheriffs said they thought the law was poorly written and expressed hope it would be blocked by the courts, but stopped short of saying they would not enforce the provisions.
Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast said he anticipated the new law would add significant strain on limited resources and he would not focus investigations on magazine capacity issues.
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