A gun rights ballot measure crafted and campaigned for by anti-government militia groups was approved by voters in eight Oregon counties on Tuesday.
The so-called “Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances” grant residents in those counties the right to own semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, regardless of what state or federal law dictate. Sheriffs in those counties are also given broad authority to determine if state and federal gun laws are constitutional and whether to bar county resources from being used to enforce them.
The state chapters of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters helped write and drum up support for the measures, according to The Oregonian. Both are militia groups that support armed resistance against perceived efforts by the federal government to infringe on their constitutional rights. Many in their ranks are active or retired police officers and members of the U.S. military.
Baker, Columbia, Douglas, Klamath, Lake, Linn, Umatilla and Union approved the measure while Lincoln and Jackson rejected it, the newspaper reported.
State law requires all gun legislation to be made at the state level. Supporters of the ordinance appear divided on how much they see it as a statement or as a legitimately enforceable measure.
Rob Taylor, head of the Committee for the Preservation of the Second Amendment, the main group behind the measure, did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. Nor did the spokesman of the local Oath Keepers chapter.
But in a recent interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, Taylor said the groups’ “brand-new approach” was modeled on the 10th Amendment principles invoked by sanctuary cities. Local officials in those areas decline to devote resources to helping federal agencies track down and detain undocumented immigrants.
An Oregon Firearms Federation press release promoting the measures promises they will protect residents against “Portland liberals” and “new, Bloomberg-funded attacks on your rights.”
The measures are the legislative fruit of longstanding, overlapping ties between local sheriffs, guns rights activists, and so-called “patriot” militia groups. Members of the Three Percenters joined the 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in 2016, while a number of local sheriffs backing the measure belong to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which is formally affiliated with the Oath Keepers.
One of those local officials is notorious rural Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, who told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the measure was more “symbolic” than anything. He first drew national attention in 2013 after announcing he would not enforce any restrictions on gun sales imposed by the federal government following the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Yet Hanlin previously backed a ballot measure to repeal Oregon’s sanctuary law for immigrants, signing on to a letter from 16 sheriffs that claimed the “statute undermines respect for the law in significant ways.”
Hanlin is well-known in the community for his ardent support of the Second Amendment, as well as for having a nude photo leaked to a local newspaper.