Voters in eight Oregon counties have passed ballot measures that set the stage to create what supporters call “gun rights sanctuary” counties.
Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances on the ballot passed in 8 of 10 counties today. They create a mechanism to “guarantee that no county funds will be used to enforce gun laws that are believed to violate the Second Amendment, including registration rules and limitations on semi-automatic weapons and ammunition,” according to a report in the News-Review of Douglas County.
Voters there passed measure 10-165 by an overwhelming margin of 73 to 27 percent.
It would require the sheriff to determine whether any federal, state or local laws and regulations relating to firearms, firearms accessories or ammunition violate the U.S. or Oregon constitutions. Any law or regulation the sheriff deemed unconstitutional would be unenforceable in the county. Once deemed unconstitutional, the ordinance would prohibit the counties from authorizing the use of funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing such laws.
Similar Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances passed in the following counties as well.
- Baker, Measure 1-84: 66-34%
- Columbia, Measure 5-270: 52-48%
- Klamath, Measure 18-110: 63-37%
- Lake, Measure 19-32: 72-28%
- Linn, Measure 22-174: 50-49%
- Umatilla, Measure 30-128: 65-35%
- Union, Measure 31-96: 58-42%
Jackson County residents rejected Measure 15-181 43-57% and Lincoln County residents rejected Measure 21-189 by a vote of 36-64%.
Rob Taylor is an Oregon activist who was instrumental in spearheading the movement to get these ordinances on the ballot. He said he wants to see every county in the state adopt similar ordinances
“Every time that I file an initiative, there are these feelings of excitement and anticipation, a readiness, an eagerness to begin the campaign. It is so empowering to live in a country where the founders had such foresight to create a process that any individual can use to redress their grievances against the government machine,” he said.
“Politics can be a prelude to war or a solution to an overwhelming conflict. The initiative process is a check on unfettered authority and another way to defeat those who would take away individual rights without the people resorting to real weaponry on real battlefields. However, we will wield these initiative petitions like weapons against the state and federal governments that are intent on taking away our right to bear arms. They will receive no cooperation. The Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance will be our hammer to pound against opponents and a shield to protect supporters until we have created a sanctuary for all law-abiding gun owners in every county of Oregon.”
According to Taylor, sheriffs in eight of the 10 counties publicly support the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance. Only one has publicly opposed the measure. Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers signed onto a statement of opposition that was littered with fallacies, including an invocation of the federal supremacy clause.
Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program — that includes enforcing federal firearms laws. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. (1997) serves as the cornerstone.
“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”
And more recently, in Murphy v. NCAA (2018), the Court held that Congress can’t take any action that “dictates what a state legislature may and may not do” even when the state action conflicts with federal law. Samuel Alito wrote, “a more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine.” He continued:
The anticommandeering doctrine may sound arcane, but it is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution, i.e., the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States … Conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the States. The anticommandeering doctrine simply represents the recognition of this limit on congressional authority.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun control. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional act to their much-needed end.”
Some gun rights supporters argued that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president. In fact, the Trump administration actually ramped up enforcement of federal gun laws in 2017.