Oregon county says it can’t afford to enforce new gun law after officials slash budgets
Gun-control advocates on Wednesday decried as a misguided political maneuver a vote by Oregon county commissioners against enforcement of new statewide gun background check requirements.
Lane County’s commissioners in a 4-1 vote on Tuesday decreed that local government could not afford to investigate violations of the new law, and affirmed the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
Proponents of the stricter gun-sale rules, which go into effect in August, questioned whether the Lane County resolution would have any practical effect.
“This is just a way for Republicans to curry favor with Oregon firearms advocates,” Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce gun violence, said on Wednesday.
“Do they mean to tell me the sheriff won’t prosecute the person who provided a murderer, illegally, with a gun?” Okamoto said.
Commissioner Jay Bozievich, who lobbied against the background check legislation before it passed in May, told Reuters on Wednesday that the commission’s vote reflected both ideological concerns and financial realities.
“We’ve had to make major cuts in our law enforcement and prosecution budgets. We currently don’t prosecute 1,800 felonies per year,” said Bozievich, a Republican. “We don’t have the resources to enforce this law.”
The new law expands Oregon’s existing gun-sale background check requirements to cover nearly all private firearm buyers, closing loopholes that had allowed unvetted sales online or between individuals, and imposing new limits on sales to people with severe mental illness.
The regulations also allow the state to maintain a database of gun owners, raising the specter of greater government oversight in the future, Bozievich said.
“We have real Second Amendment concerns about the bill,” he added.
Democratic state Senator Floyd Prozanski, who sponsored the background check legislation and lives in Lane County, acknowledged the financial constraints the local governing body faces.
But he said the law does not impose significant new costs upon the county and does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
(Reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler)