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Jackson County commissioners take pro-gun stance

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a proclamation Wednesday voicing opposition to the expansion of background checks when people buy guns.

It states the board opposes any expansion of Oregon's background check system for the transfer of firearms between qualified and law-abiding people.

"This board is united in support of Second Amendment rights and is opposed to an expansion of background checks," said Commissioner Rick Dyer, referring to constitutional protections of the people's right to keep and bear arms.

Dyer said the board wanted to act proactively in making the statement in advance of any moves by the Oregon Legislature this year to expand background checks. Proponents of the expanded checks believe more safeguards are needed to make sure felons don't get their hands on guns, particularly through private sellers.

Some gun-rights advocates and proponents of gun limitations believe the outlook for passing state gun-control regulations is better than it has been for years.

In 2014, Democratic lawmakers tried to expand background checks to cover private gun transfers but were unable to muster enough votes. Current state background check laws cover licensed gun dealers and gun shows.

All three of Jackson County's commissioners are Republicans.

The commissioners said they have received dozens of messages from county constituents worried about legislation that could erode gun rights.

Shady Cove resident Daniel Farris said key gun-rights supporters in the Oregon Legislature were defeated in their re-election bids, opening the door for passage of gun restrictions.

"There's a lot of concern the anti-Second Amendment lobby could push forward with less resistance," Farris said.

He said state politics are dominated by urban populations, who don't share the same pro-gun values of many rural residents.

"We're seeing an erosion of people's rights. The last and only real defense is what you can do yourself," Farris said.

He said an expansion of background checks would only hurt law-abiding citizens because criminals ignore laws.

Felons and mentally ill people under certain conditions are barred from possessing guns under state law.

Not all county residents are opposed to increasing gun restrictions.

In 2014, the Ashland City Council, gun-restriction proponents and gun-rights advocates were embroiled in a bitter debate over proposals to ban the carrying of loaded weapons in public and require people to store guns in a way to prevent unauthorized access by children.

The proposals were put forward by a group of residents, including parents, concerned about gun violence in America.

Councilors ultimately decided against adopting the proposed city laws, which would likely have faced costly legal challenges.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.