What exactly does a concealed handgun permit cover? I am asking because of a story from The Associated Press about the two guys — one of them is from Medford — who were walking around the Portland area with assault rifles on their shoulders claiming their permits allow them to do this. When did an assault rifle become a handgun? Is this really allowable in Jackson County? I am for gun restrictions, and I do not believe you need an AR-15 or any other assault rifle to go hunting. These guns are made to wipe out people. They are made to shoot multiple bullets with the intent of killing humans, not animals. They are guns of war. They are not everyday hunting rifles or handguns used for personal protection.
— Sarah S., Medford
Your feelings came across loud and clear, Sarah. Apparently, you want to step into the midst of a raging public debate over guns.
First, to clarify one point. The weapons you are referring to are called "assault weapons," not "assault rifles." An assault rifle is a weapon designed primarily for the military that can be switched to an automatic mode, allowing multiple rounds to be fired with one squeeze of the trigger. An assault weapon such as an AR-15 is a semiautomatic. It requires a squeeze of the trigger for each round fired. They are referred to as assault weapons because of the large quantity of ammunition that can be held in their magazines.
To answer your first question, a concealed handgun permit allows someone to carry a gun just about anywhere. Under Oregon Revised Statute 166.370, a nonschool employee with a concealed handgun license can even bring a gun on campus. Permit holders also may carry a gun into any public building, with the exception of courthouses. Local police have the authority to stop and question people carrying guns to ascertain that they have no malevolent intentions.
Actually, Warren Drouin, the Medford man you are referring to, carried his assault weapon around this fair city in 2011, prompting 67 calls to the local police. What Drouin was doing is perfectly legal. He wasn't concealing the weapon, although he does have a concealed handgun license.
Portland has an ordinance that prohibits carrying loaded firearms in public. But state law, which trumps local law, says concealed handgun license holders are exempt from any such restrictions. In most cities, including Medford, it is legal to openly carry a loaded weapon even if you do not have a concealed weapons permit.
You made a number of other points, Sarah, that we're not going to touch in this column. We'll refer you to the opinion pages if you want to see more of that debate.
Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to email@example.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.