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Ruling may embolden Oregon lawmakers

PORTLAND — Some Oregon political leaders had strong reactions to a federal appeals court finding that carrying a concealed weapon in public is not a constitutional right.

Thursday's ruling upheld neighboring California's requirement that applicants show "good cause" for getting a permit.

It might not have an immediate impact in Oregon. Concealed-carry licenses are much easier to obtain in Oregon than California, and local governments and authorities can't make that process any harder without lawmakers' permission.

But gun control has been a high-profile topic at the Capitol in Salem in recent years — largely stemming from last year's background-check law that Democrats failed to tighten in February and the Umpqua Community College shooting last fall. Some say the ruling could fuel the reform efforts that Democrats have vowed to raise again during the 2017 Legislative session.

Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and her staff were still reviewing the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and weren't ready to comment, according to spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, a Republican and staunch gun rights advocate who represents Medford, said it punishes the law-abiding majority for the mistakes of a few.

"It's thoroughly disgusting to me the judicial system is attacking the Second Amendment like they are, trying to chip away at it. It's beneath contempt," Esquivel said. "How many people doing these shootings are concealed licensees? My understanding, not one of them."

Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said he wouldn't be surprised if Thursday's ruling will embolden some of the Oregon Statehouse's "anti-gun legislators to start trying to restrict the concealed handgun licenses, which they have done in the past."

But Sen. Ginny Burdick, the chamber's Democratic majority leader and a strong gun control advocate, said that's unlikely. But she thinks current concealed-carry laws could be tougher, such as tightening license application's "ridiculously small training requirement," Burdick said.

"The Supreme Court has sent strong signals that reasonable regulation on the possession and carrying of a lethal weapon is very appropriate," Burdick said. "It's a constitutional right, but with those rights come responsibilities and the states have the right to regulate their public safety."

The ruling ultimately could be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. It was consistent with rulings since 2012 in three other circuits upholding similar restrictions in New York, Maryland and New Jersey. However, the high court did not take up the issue after those rulings.

Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said he thinks the entire concept of a concealed handgun license should be done away with.

"It's absolutely ludicrous," said Bergin, who's also an executive committee member of the Oregon State Sheriff's Association. "I really can't even fathom that the 9th Circuit would do something like this because basically, the way I understand it, they're making you show a need to have a license. I mean, what's next? Are they going to make you show a need to have a gun?"