Max Denning

When Ken Wisdom was collecting signatures to get the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance on the ballot in Union County in the summer of 2018, he told the signees about the potential for Democrats to introduce a bill with wide-reaching gun control measures in the state Legislature. Oregon Senate Bill 501 is the kind of bill he warned gun rights supporters about.

SB 501 is the most far-reaching of the 14 bills regarding gun control already introduced in the 2019 legislative session. The bill would limit magazines to a maximum of five rounds, require permits to purchase guns, and limit the amount of ammunition an individual can buy in a 30-day period to 20 rounds. The bill’s chief sponsors are Sen. Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) and Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego). The bill was written with input from a group of Lake Oswego High School students known as “Students for Change.”

Second Amendment activists and Union County law enforcement are concerned about the bill.

Wisdom, a gun rights advocate, said he owns approximately 30 firearms. He said he believes three of them would still be legal if SB 501 passed. Of the 10 best-selling firearms in 2017 according to Sportsman Outdoors Superstore, only one would remain legal in Oregon in its standard manufacturing state.

Laura Eckstein, an attorney with law offices in La Grande and current Elgin Municipal Court Judge, said the laws the bill would create are illegal and “ridiculous.”

“I believe there’s a legitimate Second Amendment challenge,” Eckstein said, citing a federal circuit court’s ruling of a seven-round ban as unconstitutional. “There are a lot of problems right out of the gate. Like what about a six-shot revolver? What about all of my guns that have a minimum of 10 (rounds)?”

Eckstein also said the bill is not intended to be passed, but just introduced so Democrats can pass a substantial gun control bill that will seem less extreme compared to SB 501.

“It’s classic shock and awe, like a bait and switch,” Eckstein said. “It’s a classic legislative strategy to put a crazy bill forward that they know isn’t going to pass, get everybody whipped up, when they really want (another) bill. So by then you’re like ‘Well, at least it’s not that crazy thing.’”

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen echoed Eckstein.

“We too have concerns over some of the gun control bills being proposed presently,” Rasmussen told The Observer. “However, it is fruitless to speculate on a response until one of these bills does indeed pass into law. Many bills in their final form bear little resemblance to their introduced form.”

If SB 501 or another bill passes that violates the Second Amendment, Eckstein said the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance passed in November could come into play in Union County.

The Observer reported at the time of the election that some legal experts think the SAPO is unenforceable. Jim Westwood, senior counsel at Stoel Rives law firm in Portland, told The Observer in November that the SAPO can’t undermine state law.

“I think the state has preempted this,” Westwood said. “I’m not sure the county sheriff or anybody else in a county would have the authority under Oregon law to declare anything contrary to Oregon law.”

But Eckstein vehemently disagrees.

“I believe our SAPO is constitutional and enforceable,” Eckstein said. “I believe that the SAPO would come into direct effect with a law like this. Because if 501 is unconstitutional then that triggers SAPO. So that problem presents itself squarely.”

Wisdom, who was the chief petitioner of the SAPO in Union County, said he feels less worried about gun control bills in the Legislature because of the SAPO.

“I feel that SB (501) is going to be challenged because it’s unconstitutional in the first place,” Wisdom said.

If a law the sheriff’s office believes is unconstitutional does pass, Rasmussen said he won’t enforce it.

“I as sheriff and all other law enforcement officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Rasmussen said. “We therefore have an obligation both legal and moral not to enforce any law deemed unconstitutional.”