SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The first court test of whether local governments can ban police from enforcing certain gun laws is playing out in a rural Oregon county. It's 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, -- such as one adopted unanimously last week by Jefferson County commissioners -- but some, like in Columbia County, carry legal force.
The group Everytown for Gun Safety is among those urging a judge to invalidate the ordinance that's been divisive in the county, located outside of Portland.
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.
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.