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OCB measure 114 enforcement

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Central Oregon sheriff says he won’t enforce Oregon’s new gun control law

Three other rural Oregon sheriffs say they won’t enforce law

By BRYCE DOLE
The Bulletin

Jefferson County Sheriff Jason Pollock says his office will not enforce Measure 114, joining a growing number of sheriffs statewide who are pushing back against the state’s newest gun-control bill.

One of the nation’s strictest gun-control measures, Measure 114 bans the sale of firearm magazines with more than 10 rounds and requires safety training and a permit for purchasing a gun. Its narrow passage in last week’s election was applauded by gun-control proponents who say it can help curb a rise in gun violence and was derided by gun-rights advocates who claim it infringes upon their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

But already, sheriffs such as Pollock, who was elected in May, and Crook County Sheriff John Gautney are voicing concerns over how they believe the measure will affect public safety and the duties of their law enforcement officers.

“With shrinking law enforcement budgets and increasing restraints on law enforcement, I believe citizens must be able to protect themselves,” Pollock said in a Facebook post Sunday that has been shared more than 1,100 times. “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce Measure 114.”

The measure requires gun buyers to obtain a permit from a sheriff’s office and pay $65. It also requires buyers to pay for an approved firearms-safety course. And it requires them to submit photo identification, provide a fingerprint and pass a criminal background check.

Many commenters on Pollock’s post praised the sheriff for stating that his office wouldn’t enforce the measure. Others, however, questioned whether a law enforcement agency should be able to decide which laws to enforce.

Pollock’s statement comes amid a growing regional debate over guns that follows a string of recent shootings in Jefferson and Deschutes counties.

In July, a man allegedly stole an AR-15 from a truck at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, prompting a police chase through Madras that ended in law enforcement shooting him. At one point, the Jefferson County District Attorney said, he aimed the gun at a gas station attendant but it jammed, a stroke of luck that may have saved lives.

In August, a 22-year-old man with an AR-15-style rifle opened fire on shoppers at a Bend Safeway, killing an 84-year-old man, a Safeway employee and himself, a shooting that made national headlines. At least four people have been shot and killed in Deschutes County this year, according to the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office.

On Oct. 29, two people came under fire while sitting in their car in downtown Madras. Now, two people face conspiracy to commit aggravated murder charges in connection with that shooting, and a teen faces attempted murder charges, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

About three days after the downtown shooting, a 24-year-old man was shot and killed in a Madras neighborhood as Halloween trick-or-treaters walked nearby. No one has been arrested in that shooting, Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Brentley Foster said Monday.

Kai Richards, a 14-year-old Madras resident, said that he sees promise from the state’s latest gun law in protecting students from shootings. “When I go to school every day, it’s a very realistic reality that someone could come into school with a large gun and kill a ton of students and kill me,” he said.

But Richards, a student at Redmond Proficiency Academy, voiced concerns over the sheriff’s statement, saying: “It’s really concerning to have someone who’s supposed to be protecting me choosing to do something that wouldn’t protect me.”

In his statement, Pollock says the latest gun bill isn’t the answer to a variety of issues facing Oregon, including gun violence. Instead, he said, the state is worsening public safety by decriminalizing drugs, scaling back its mandatory sentencing measure, and failing to address a homelessness and mental health crisis.

“Oregon faces a crisis in its criminal justice system because the leftist elements in Salem have refused to hold criminals accountable for their behavior,” said Pollock.

These issues have been “exacerbated by the overreaching police reform measures imposed upon Oregon … (c)ounties by the knee jerk reaction to events in 2020 in Minnesota,” Pollock said, appearing to reference the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, which sparked nationwide protests for racial justice and policing reform.

Pollock did not respond to requests for comment prior to press time Monday.

His comments are similar to statements from sheriffs of  Linn, Union and Sherman counties who say they won’t enforce the gun bill.

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson did not respond to a request for an interview through his spokesperson Monday. Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz declined to comment, according to Sheila Miller, a department spokeswoman.

Measure 114 passed with 51% of Oregonians voting in favor and 49% rejecting it.

The state’s democratic strongholds — seven counties mostly located in the Willamette Valley — came out strongly in support of the measure. Twenty-nine less populous counties, though, rejected it, many of which are in rural areas that tend to lean conservative.

Restrictions under the measure are supposed to begin in mid-January, but gun rights advocates are preparing to battle it in the judicial system, an effort that could delay its implementation, The Oregonian reported over the weekend.

Gautney, Crook County’s sheriff, said in an interview Monday that he hopes any proceedings will end in a ruling that declares the measure unconstitutional, as he believes it is. But when asked whether his office would decline to enforce the measure like Jefferson County, he said: “I’m not going to commit to that at this point.”

“For one thing, I don’t even know if this law’s going to be effective because … if it gets challenged in court and it gets a stay put against it, then it’s not enforceable anyway until that’s resolved,” he said.

He and other sheriffs across Oregon have questioned whether their offices have the ample funds and staffing necessary to balance the new permitting system with calls for service. His fear is that the new responsibilities from the measure might force his office to prioritize calls for service.

“My intent will be that person crimes take priority and major property crimes will take priority,” he said. “Everything else will have to take a back seat to that.”

Both Pollock and Gautney stated they didn’t believe the measure would keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.

Should the measure survive the impending court battles, Gautney acknowledged his office will be required to do what a majority of Oregon voters have asked them to do, noting that sheriffs do not have the authority to rule whether a law is unconstitutional or not.

“If this is upheld, then fine, we will move forward with what we have to do,” he said. “This is a measure that was put before the people and the people of the state of Oregon voted for it. That’s a right under our constitution as well.”

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