Oregon Appeals Court Reverses County’s “Second Amendment Sanctuary” Law

The fight to restore gun rights is not always easy. It’s often filled with defeats here and there. 

Case in point: The Oregon Court of Appeals decision on February 15, 2023 to rule against Columbia County’s ordinance to nullify all state and federal laws. 

The three-judge panel ruled that this ordinance violated Oregon’s firearm preemption law. The judges determined that the county’s broad Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance did not have legal standing in the face of state law that bars localities from establishing their own gun regulations.

“The Ordinance, with limited exception, purports to nullify all firearm regulations enacted by the Legislative Assembly,” Judge Douglas Tookey said on behalf of the state appellate court. “If allowed to stand, it would, effectively, create a ‘patchwork quilt’ of firearms laws in Oregon, where firearms regulations that applied in some counties would not apply in Columbia County, which is what ORS 166.170 was enacted to avoid.”

The Oregon appellate court’s ruling is one of the first rulings that challenges gun control nullification laws on the grounds that they violate state preemption laws. 

The legal challenge originates from two ordinances that citizens in Columbia County voted for in 2018 and 2020. The resolutions would later be combined in 2021 and titled the “Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance.” The ordinances banned all county employees from enforcing “all local, state and federal acts, laws, rules or regulations, originating from jurisdictions outside of Columbia County, which restrict or affect an individual person’s general right to keep and bear arms.”

In addition, the ordinance argued that “it should be self-evident from the compounding evidence that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental individual right that shall not be infringed and all local, state, and federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition are a violation of the Second Amendment.”

The ordinance also imposed a $2,000 fine for individuals who violated the ordinance and established a private cause of action for citizens to file lawsuits against government officials for enforcing any gun control laws that were passed outside of the county’s jurisdiction. 

While this court’s decision was a disappointment, gun owners in Oregon should not be dismayed by these results. If anything, they should be further motivated to continue ignoring the state’s gun control laws. 

The fact is that Oregon is one of the most anti-gun states in the Union. For example, Guns & Ammo magazine ranks it in 36th place for its latest best states for gun owners rankings. As a result, gun owners in the state have no real mechanism to implement changes at the state level. In light of this harsh political reality, they must turn to nullification to halt further gun control encroachments and ignore the current set of unconstitutional laws already on the books. 

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