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Oregon’s Restrictive New Firearms Law is Impossible to Enforce, Sheriffs Say

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by Greg Walker

Sheriff Shane Nelson of Deschutes County, Oregon, pulls no punches when discussing the state’s Measure 114. The measure, narrowly approved last month by voters, is known as the Changes to Firearm Ownership and Purchase Requirements Initiative. The measure is so restrictive that Second Amendment watchdogs have termed it the most extreme gun control initiative in the nation. A number of law enforcement leaders in Oregon have said they won’t enforce some of the provisions.

The sheriff of Deschutes County explained his views at length.

“My responsibility is to uphold the U.S. Constitution as well as Oregon’s state constitution,” Sheriff Nelson said. “When I say our agency will not prioritize enforcement of Measure 114, I am saying you cannot enforce something that has no administrative rules in place.”

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Nelson goes further.

“I believe law-abiding citizens in Oregon are important assets to public safety in our county.

“After the terrible shooting at Safeway in Bend this year, our applications for concealed handgun licenses exploded. Our current backlog to process the current backlog will not be completed until May of next year.”

No one involved in putting 114 on the ballot reached out to Oregon’s law enforcement professionals.

Sheriff Shane Nelson


“Enforcement of 114 is going to be a low priority for us,” says Nelson. “If complaints are made his deputies will take the information, consult with their supervisor, and make a report if a report is appropriate. “In my view, based on the information I am seeing and discussing with our in-house legal counsel, Measure 114 is a test case for those elsewhere in the country who want to enact similar measures. This is much bigger than Deschutes County, or the state of Oregon. For this reason alone, the legal standing of 114 must be decided in our court system to include the Oregon Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Nelson is considering his options if within 60 to 90 days the State has not cleaned up M114. This in view of the tragic murder of four college students in Idaho and the mass shooting at a Walmart.

“Oregon’s citizens have the right to defend themselves. A measure like this is depriving law-abiding citizens from being able to purchase a firearm, any firearm, for self-defense or hunting, fishing, sports shooting, or the collection of antique firearms. Who gets held accountable, sued when a parent’s son or daughter, now wanting to have a gun nearby for personal protection, cannot purchase one and they end up the victim of violent crime?”

Nelson’s options include authorizing a current Concealed Handgun License holder, as well as retired law enforcement officers who hold a current federally authorized permit, to be de facto purchase permits.

“We are looking at this as a very real option. I will not stand by and do nothing if a qualified, vetted resident of our county is being penalized because of how poorly conceived this measure is.” 

At what cost?

When I shared that the measure had to offer a funding number (how much it would cost to implement the measure if approved, something required by Oregon law), Nelson was not surprised.

“It says that cost was ‘undetermined’ when it went before the voters. ‘Undetermined’ is not a number.“

As of two weeks ago, the state offered their estimate that M114 would cost $145 million to implement. This with no fund site in place, and Oregon’s law enforcement agencies expected to pick up the tab for firearms training, ammunition, and staffing.

“I will have to hire at least three employees to begin with to process so-called purchase permits in a timely manner. That may end up being a higher number if the workload justifies it. It will take upwards of six months to do this because qualified people are no longer interested in joining law enforcement agencies, and when we find them we will have to train them.”

Cost to the taxpayer? $100,000 per employee.

Nelson said, “The state goes about implementation of ballot measures the wrong way. The State of Oregon should pause ballot measure implementation [114] until the framework is in place to accommodate it.”

In closing, Sheriff Nelson offered this:

“You cannot legislate good behavior… Measure 114 only penalizes law-abiding citizens in what is a long-term refusal in Salem to properly fund mental health and drug dependency issues. We consistently rank at the bottom of the barrel in these areas per the yearly statistics available to anyone with a computer. Mass shootings and suicide are mental health related incidents – can you imagine the strides in this area if $145 million dollars were properly set aside in Oregon and used to improve our mental health system?”

I requested to attend the steering committee meetings regarding Measure 114 implementation, or to receive minutes. Oregon State Police denied the request, saying that committee meetings are not subject to public meetings law, and that no minutes of the meetings exist.

An author and Special Forces historian, Greg Walker writes frequently for Soldier of Fortune.

This article first appeared in Oregon’s The Nugget Newspaper.

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