In a push for tighter gun control, the Biden Administration is cracking down on homemade guns. But many Americans who build guns as a hobby don’t think it’s constitutional.
The first court test of whether local governments can ban police from enforcing certain gun laws is playing out in a rural Oregon county, one of a wave of U.S. counties declaring itself a Second Amendment sanctuary.
The measure that voters in the logging area of Columbia County narrowly approved last year forbids local officials from enforcing most federal and state gun laws and could impose thousands of dollars in fines on those who try.
Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions have been adopted by some 1,200 local governments in states around the U.S., including Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois and Florida, according to Shawn Fields, an assistant professor of law at Campbell University who tracks them. Many are symbolic, but some, like in Columbia County, carry legal force.
The movement took off around 2018, as states considered stricter gun laws in the wake of mass shootings, including a high school shooting near Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and made survivors into high-profile gun control activists.
After President Joe Biden took office, conservative lawmakers in several states proposed banning police from enforcing federal gun measures, and at least one proposal in Arizona has been signed into law.
“This will allow the court to tell us whether the county can actually decline to enforce certain state laws, and it will tell us how to abide by the will of the voters to the extent that we can,” said Sarah Hanson, who serves as counsel in the conservative-leaning county in deep-blue Oregon.”
FILE – In this Feb. 19, 2021, file photo, firearms are displayed at a gun shop in Salem, Ore. The first legal test of whether a wave of U.S. counties can legally declare themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” and refuse to enforce certain gun laws is playing out in a rural Oregon logging county. The measure Columbia County voters narrowly approved last year bans local officials from enforcing most federal and state gun laws, which includes things like universal background checks or any prohibition on carrying guns. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)( )
The movement hasn’t yet faced a major legal challenge. The Oregon case was filed by Columbia County under an unusual provision in state law that allows a judge to examine a measure before it goes into effect. No timeline has been set for a court hearing.
“This will allow the court to tell us whether the county can actually decline to enforce certain state laws, and it will tell us how to abide by the will of the voters to the extent that we can,” said Sarah Hanson, who serves as counsel in the conservative-leaning county in deep-blue Oregon.
Supporters of the ordinance include the Oregon Firearms Federation, which said in a November statement that “extremists” and “big city radicals” were trying to curtail gun rights.
The group referenced Portland protests opposing police brutality that occasionally turned violent last summer and called the ordinance a “common sense” step that would “ensure your right and ability to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones.”
The ordinance would ban the enforcement of laws like background check requirements and restrictions on carrying a gun, though it would have exceptions for others, including keeping firearms from convicted felons.
The Oregon Firearms Federation didn’t respond to a request for comment on the court case.
Sheriff Brian Pixley has expressed support, saying in a March statement that one of his responsibilities is to uphold people’s Second Amendment rights and that he’s eager to “move forward with the will of the voters.”