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Pro-gun measure clears first hurdle in Jackson County

Organizers of a proposed ballot measure to place gun-ownership protections at the county level have been given permission to begin collecting signatures, but organizers behind a proposed statewide gun control measure argue that a county ordinance won’t have legal standing over state law.

A prospective petition filed as “Jack 18-01” with the Jackson County Elections Office seeks to add a “Right to Bear Arms Amendment” to the Jackson County Charter.

The amendment would allow residents and visitors to “Freely possess, manufacture, transfer, sell and buy firearms, including but not limited to what is commonly and subjectively referred to as semi-automatic or ‘assault-style’ firearms and/or high capacity feed systems, firearm accessories and ammunition, which are designed primarily for the same purposes,” as well as “possess lawfully owned firearms without registration requirements.”

The proposed ordinance satisfies procedural standards, according to a May 3 letter signed by Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, and addressed to chief petitioners Jason Williams, James Hangar and Dale Robinson.

In the letter, Walker said the prospective petition complies with requirements that include keeping petitions to “one subject” and submitting the “full text” involved in the charter amendment, according to a copy of the letter posted on a website created for the proposed measure, PatrioticRevolution.com, which is organized by Ryan Mallory, co-owner of the popular crime-watching Jackson County Scanner Group.

When reached via Facebook messenger, Mallory said they’re hoping to collect signatures for the petition starting this weekend, using vetted volunteers. So far they have 38 volunteers willing to collect signatures and 21 willing to work at information tables that will also register voters, adding that he expects the number to grow.

“We intend to crowd source the petition’s success,” Mallory said.

Early numbers show that the organizers’ message is spreading. Since April 11, the Patriotic Revolution Facebook page has reached 13,166 individuals, of which 4,766 engaged with the page by liking or sharing posts, according to screen shots of analytics numbers Mallory shared.

The proposed law, according to the filing on the Elections Office website, includes language allowing police officers to enforce the Right to Bear Arms Amendment, and places civil penalties of up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for corporations per violation under the authority of Oregon Revised Statute 203.065, “Violation of county ordinances.”

Mallory said previously that the amendment’s language is modeled on a Josephine County initiative that passed in 1994.

A lead organizer behind a possible statewide ban on assault weapons has doubts that the county ordinance will stand up to state law.

Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, which is behind Initiative Petition 43, said in an email that “so-called ‘Second Amendment Protection’ or SAP ordinances cannot supersede state or federal law.”

“If someone tried to enforce a firearm law and was prosecuted because of a SAP, a SAP cannot supersede state or federal law and the county would probably be sued,” Okamoto wrote. “Conversely, if a state or federal law was not enforced and a death or injury resulted, the county could be sued because, again, SAPs cannot supersede state or federal law.”

Oregon Initiative 43 would ban the sale of certain high-capacity semiautomatic firearms commonly called “assault rifles” and make owning unregistered examples a Class B felony, according to Okamoto and the Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson, the proposed measure’s lead petitioner.

“This is not about the Second Amendment,” Knutson said. “It’s to ban the future sale of assault weapons,” describing them as “weapons of war.”

Knutson said he has about 2,000 volunteers ready to collect signatures once they get a neutral ballot title. A 10-day comment period ended Tuesday, and Knutson said he anticipates a ballot title in June.

About 200 volunteers from Eugene, Newberg and Portland have been trained, and he said the measure will use no paid signature gatherers.

“Our goal is 100,000 signatures in a day,” Knutson said, to provide a cushion over the state’s required 88,134.

Knutson said he has gun owners on his side, including hunters and veterans from all arms of the service.

“Especially people who’ve really seen war,” Knutson said. “They know what these weapons can do.”

Drawing from the youth energy that followed the March for Our Lives demonstrations in March, Knutson said he’s working to give youth a platform to channel their energy.

Because youth are watching, Knutson said he’s focused on maintaining a positive campaign.

“We have nothing discouraging to say about people who would take democratic action,” Knutson said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.