Local government

Malheur County sheriff joins lawsuit opposing new state gun law

VALE – Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe has joined a lawsuit filed in federal court to stop parts of a new gun law narrowly passed by voters Nov. 8.

Wolfe is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the Oregon Firearms Federation Nov. 18 in U.S. District Court in Pendleton regarding Measure 114.

Oregon Measure 114 changed the state’s existing framework to own or buy a firearm. The measure requires permits issued by police to buy a gun and compels Oregonians to acquire a photo ID, be fingerprinted, conduct gun safety training and be subject to a criminal background check.

The law also requires a $65 payment to apply for the permit, said Wolfe. The permit, he said, would be valid for five years.
The measure also restricts the manufacturing, importing, buying or selling ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds and makes a violation of that mandate a class A misdemeanor.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey; Union County Sheriff Cody Bowen along with Oregon residents Harold Haden and Adam Johnson.

Haden owns Garner’s Sporting Goods in Pendleton while Johnson owns Coat of Arms Custom Firearms in Keizer.

The lawsuit names Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum as defendants.

The plaintiffs asked the federal court to declare Measure 114 unconstitutional. They asked for an immediate injunction barring the state from enforcing the provision limiting the number of bullets in a magazine.

Wolfe said he joined in the lawsuit just after it was filed.

“I volunteered because I have questions on the constitutionality of it,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said the new law directly impacts county residents in several ways.

“One, it affects people’s way of life. The proponents (of the law) believe it’s going to make Oregon safer. I think it puts Oregonians in more danger because it will increase the sales of guns on the black market,” said Wolfe.

In the lawsuit, Wolfe asserted if Measure 114 is implemented he and his officers will be unable to “adequately protect the residents of Malheur County.”

Wolfe also posted a message regarding the lawsuit on the sheriff’s office Facebook page Thursday, Dec. 1.

“Malheur County residents were not in favor of BM 114 with 7,001 voting against and 1,899 voting in favor of the measure. I believe BM 114 is unconstitutional and impractical,” Wolfe wrote.

Response to his post was fast.

“Thank you for fighting for our constitutional rights,” wrote Janet Ruth Parker Martin on the post.

Ontario resident Sarah Ray Groberg thanked Wolfe.

“An unfortunate and unfunded mandate,” wrote Groberg.

“Thank you for putting yourself out on the block for the people who voted no,” wrote Heather Goodman.

Wolfe also said he felt it is “ridiculous you’d have to have a permit to buy a firearm.”

“There is already a background check that is required in Oregon, so what more is this going to do?” he said.

Wolfe said since voters passed the law, his office received numerous calls.

“People want to know exactly what they can and can’t do. They want to know how it can be constitutional. Every time someone calls it is a new question,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe previously said the law will also be a burden on his office. That because the firearm training piece of the law probably means local police agencies – such as the sheriff’s office – will be compelled to provide the firearms education.

Wolfe said if the court does not issue an injunction, his office will “one way or another figure out how to get” firearms training organized.

“I am not in any way going to hang fire where the citizens of Malheur County can’t buy a gun,” he said.

Wolfe said the first hearing on the lawsuit is slated for Dec. 2, in the federal court in Portland.

Lift Every Voice Oregon was the lead sponsor of the measure. A fact sheet produced by the organization asserts the new law will create safer schools and communities with background checks and a limit on large-capacity magazines. The law, according to the fact sheet, will reduce homicides, suicides, gun trafficking and police shootings.
The NRA opposed the measure calling the proposed law “the nation’s most extreme gun control initiative.”

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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