Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Reporting On So-Called Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances Is Wrong; Threats of Violence From Militias

Here in Oregon, pro-gun extremist militias are pushing some local ballot measures they call "Second Amendment Preservation Ordinances" which would give county sheriffs unprecedented power which are constitutionally reserved for judges, to interpret gun laws themselves and choose whether or not to enforce them based on their own opinions about what the Second Amendment protects.

From Ceasefire Oregon's Executive Director, Penny Okamoto, as cross-posted from the Ceasefire Oregon blog:


On November 2, 2018, Oregon Public Broadcasting published an inaccurate and inflammatory article about militia-backed ballot measures called “Second Amendment Protection” ordinances, or SAPs. These measures are appearing on some county ballots in Oregon. The article was repeated on the November 6, 2018 OPB morning radio broadcast.
Ceasefire Oregon reached out to the article’s author, Jonathan Levinson, and to OPB with the following email. If you wish to express concern or to ask that a correction be published today, please call OPB at 800-241-8123.

No voter should ever be subjected to threats of violence. Publishing these threats could intimidate voters or suppress voter turn out. OPB should have reported this to law enforcement, not given violence a public platform.

Dear Mr. Levinson,

Ceasefire Oregon is deeply concerned about several aspects of your November 2, 2018 article, “Sanctuary Cities For Gun Rights? Oregon Militias Try New Political Tactics.” First is the implied violence from Tom McKirgan, who claims membership in Oregon militias. Mr. McKirgan, a supporter of ballot measures for Sanctuary Cities for Gun Rights, admitted the militias are willing to engage in physical conflict if they do not achieve their goals on November 6. (“And if we have to fight physically to do it we will,” McKirgan said. “It’s just that simple.”)

We believe no voter should ever be subjected to a threat of violence. We question the wisdom of Oregon Public Broadcasting allowing a member of the Oregon militia (or anyone) to be quoted as saying that groups will “fight physically” if a voter does not agree with a supporter of a ballot measure. This statement is particularly concerning because the ballot measures could effectively place militia members or supporters of the militias in control of county law enforcement. As you know from your own October 30 article which featured Mr. McKirgan, he spent seventeen years in law enforcement and is a member of Oregon militias. Yet you chose to include his implied threat conspicuously as the last statement–without any comment or pushback–so readers are left with this thought in their memories.

Violent rhetoric never deserves a platform, especially not in the aftermath of bombing attempts and the brutal shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
In addition, we would like to address the inaccuracies and implied bias in your article. We urge you to address these publicly. We have provided corrections with explanations and citations.
  • Second Amendment Protection (SAP) measures (referred to in your headline as “Sanctuary Cities for Gun Rights”) are not lawful.
    • SAPs clearly attempt to give county sheriffs the ability to amend firearm-related laws. According to Oregon law, ORS 166.170, that power rests with the Oregon legislature.1
    • In July 2018, Grant County Judge W. D. Cramer ruled2 that a Grant County SAP petition violated Oregon’s firearm preemption law (ORS 166.170).
    • SAPs attempt to require county sheriffs to “determine whether any law or regulation pertaining to the right to bear arms or related rights violates the U.S. or Oregon Constitution.” Local officials are not Supreme Court justices and do not have the authority to interpret any part of the US or Oregon Constitutions.
    • Constitutional law expert, Charles Hinkle, was quoted in a 2015 interview3 with “The Huffington Post” about the Coos County SAP.  Mr. Hinkle stated that, under the Coos County SAP, Coos County Sheriff Zanni “would be violating his oath of office by enforcing a county ordinance that is contrary to state or federal law. ‘Of course local officials can’t decide what laws are constitutional. That’s why Kim Davis went to jail,’ Hinkle told the Huffington Post.” Mr. Hinkle’s remarks refer to the inability of sheriffs to act as US Supreme Court Justices.
    • In fact, in your prior article, your cite Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin’s admission that “interpreting the Constitution is not part of his job or something that he’s qualified to do.”
  • The Second Amendment is not an unlimited right.
    • Tom McKirgan stated (and you failed to correct his comment), “If you look at the Second Amendment where it says that it ‘shall not be infringed,’ that’s exactly what it means — our founders meant that.”
    • The late Justice Antonin Scalia’s ruling on the Heller decision clearly stated4,  “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
    • In the same opinion, Justice Scalia continued, “…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
    • Justice Scalia clearly stated that the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right and that laws can be enacted that will prevent firearms from being accessed by people who would be harmful to self or others.
  • SAPs are not protected by the Tenth Amendment.
    • The Supreme Court ruled in Printz v. United States (1997) and New York v. United States (1992) that the Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from commandeering state governments to assist in enforcing federal law.5
    • Enforcement of federal law is the responsibility of federal law enforcement officials. Therefore, state and local police cannot be forced to detain a person merely to question that person’s U.S. citizenship status.
    • The Tenth Amendment does not give Oregon county sheriffs authority to ignore state laws or the laws of the Oregon Constitution.
    • The Oregon Firearm Safety Act (background checks for gun sales), laws prohibiting guns for stalkers, and the law providing for Extreme Risk Protection Orders are Oregon state laws, not federal laws. There is no Constitutional protection (federal or state) extended to county sheriffs to relieve them from their duty to enforce Oregon laws or allowing them to enact an initiative supporting such actions.
  • SAPs have been ruled to be administrative in nature and, therefore, not the proper subjects for the initiative process.
    • SAPs attempt to change who interprets laws; they do not make new laws. Therefore, SAPs are administrative and not the proper subjects of the initiative petition process.
    • Judge W.D. Cramer ruled6 that the Grant County SAP, measure 12-72,  ran afoul of the initiative petition process under the Oregon Constitution, Article IV, Section 7 which states that petitions can only make new law.
Ceasefire Oregon was disappointed by the bias shown in your statement: “In a state where Democrats in Portland and Salem have used their control over all the major branches of government to push stricter gun laws, giving local officials control over enforcing the laws could gain traction.”
  • People throughout the state voted for Democrats, not just in Portland and Salem.
  • Your statement shows bias against Portland and Salem, and implies that voters in those cities do not deserve the same voice as voters in other parts of Oregon.
  • Democrats have been elected by a majority of the citizens of Oregon. The will of the voters should not be dismissed because the Oregon militias disagree with the outcome of the vote.
  • Your statement is biased against those who support effective gun laws. A vast majority of Oregonians, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, support stronger gun laws. In fact, according to a Benenson Strategy Group poll taken in 2015 during consideration of the Oregon Firearm Safety Act (SB 941), 87% of voters including 83% of gun owners supported background checks for firearm sales. The percentage of gun owners who support background checks has only increased throughout the country since 2015. Background checks for gun sales are now supported by 95% or more of gun owners queried in the 2018 Quinnipiac Poll and the November 2017 Gallup Poll.
  • The gun violence prevention laws passed since 2015 are also popular. According to a March 2018 Quinnipiac poll, 89% of voters support Extreme Risk Protection Order laws (SB 719)  and 91% support prohibiting convicted stalkers from purchasing or possessing firearms (HB 4145).
  • Clearly, voters support strong, effective gun laws and Democratic legislators have been working for years to pass laws that reduce gun violence.
Oregonians need clear and unbiased reporting on this issue. If passed, SAPs will usurp power from the legislative and judicial branches of counties, and leave citizens unsure of the processes of their own government. If a sheriff interprets a law, to whom does a citizen go to enforce a direct violation of that law? Who will have checks on the county sheriff? Will the county sheriff decide to determine the constitutionality of all the cases of the US Supreme Court? Will the sheriff decide to disallow immigration? Abortion? Voting?
The Second Amendment is already well protected by the gun lobbies and the US Supreme Court decisions Heller and McDonald. SAPs are an attempt by militias and the gun lobby to exert power over the executive branch of county and state government. Issues as grave as these deserve accuracy and fairness.


  1. The law is well known to at least one of the backers of SAPs, the Oregon Firearms Federation, who used the firearm preemption law (ORS 166.170) in 2011 in a lawsuit that forced Oregon colleges to allow people with concealed carry handgun licenses to carry loaded, hidden guns onto Oregon University System campuses. Now, that group is deliberately flouting the firearm preemption law.
  2. “The plain reading of measure 12-72 violates this statute [ORS 166.170] and by definition enters into an area that by law is not of county concern.” Grant County Circuit Case No.18CV19251, Judge W.D. Cramer, Jr., letter ruling, July 29, 2018.
  3. “Further [the measure] contains provisions that are not legislative in nature and; therefore, not proper for an initiative by definition.” Grant County Circuit Case No.18CV19251, Judge W.D. Cramer, Jr., letter ruling, July 29, 2018.

UPDATE (11/7/18): Unfortunately, 8 out of the 10 SAP measures passed. They will almost certainly be challenged in court.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sculpture: The Last Lockdown.

Sculpting by Manuel Oliver whose son Joaquin, 17, was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The sculpture is called "The Last Lockdown" and is made by 3D printing. More information HERE.


The figures were created using 3D printers, an intentional reference to the debate over guns potentially being
3D printed. The desks are real school desks.
“We want you to feel unsettled,” the project’s co-creator Sean Leonard said

Image may contain: shoes and indoor

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A comparison of firearm-related death rates in selected Oregon counties

(This is a cross-post from the Ceasefire Oregon blog, here)

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Numbers from 2005 – 2014 about firearm-related deaths in Deschutes, Multnomah, Klamath, and Linn Counties. For comparisons, I highlighted Multnomah County because it has the highest population and is the most urban. I highlighted Klamath because it ranks third (behind Curry and Baker) in firearm-related death rates but Klamath has a larger population for better comparison. (Klamath has 66,000; Baker, 16,000; and Curry 22,000 rounded.) I highlighted Linn because it was comparable in population size to Deschutes.

All rates are per 100,000 people.

Deschutes County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 12.16 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 11.20
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.64
  • Population: 163,000 (rounded)

Multnomah County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 8.88 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 6.41
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 2.07
  • Population: 757,000 (rounded)

Klamath County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 21.60 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 16.47
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 4.08 (No, that is not a typo.)
  • Population: 66,000 (rounded)

Linn County:
  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 10.57 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 9.01
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.95
  • Population: 118,000 (rounded)

Data from https://www.oregonlive.com/trending/2017/12/where_do_oregonians_die_by_gun.html
An additional comparison: Chicago’s firearm-homicide rate is 16.4 per 100,000 (2010-2015). Even Chicago, however, is much lower than that of New Orleans (46.9), Detroit (45.0), or St. Louis (43.8) for the same time period. [Sixty percent of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were first sold in other states, many with weaker gun laws. A small handful of gun stores, three from Cook Country and one from Gary, Indiana, continue to be responsible for a disproportionate number of crime guns recovered on Chicago’s streets.]  (Source: “Is Chicago Really America’s Most Dangerous City?”)

Further studies are needed to determine if firearm-homicide rates in Jefferson (4.62), Klamath (4.08), Malheur (2.26), Coos (2.22), and Josephine (2.06) Counties could be reduced with immediate access to Level 1 trauma centers. The same question should be asked of firearm-suicide rates. (Approximately 85-90% of firearm-suicide attempts are immediately lethal.)

One must question if providing effective suicide prevention support–including educating people about Extreme Risk Protection Order–and investigating firearm sellers who violate SB 941 by not performing background checks for gun sales, would reduce firearm-related deaths. SB 941 took effect in 2015 and ERPO took effect in 2018. Data could be available next year to determine if SB 941 is effective in reducing firearm-related deaths in counties which enforced the law.

Note: The counties with the highest rates of firearm-related deaths all have or have had* a sheriff who publicly refused to support SB 941 (background checks for almost all firearm sales). (CurryKlamathCoosJosephineDouglas Counties).

*Mr. Skrah (Klamath County) is no longer sheriff after he was found guilty on five counts relating choking and harassment. Skrah was cleared of a charge of strangulation. Skrah stated (without irony), “And if you send me to jail, I don’t know if I can defend myself,” even though he faced jail time for fourth-degree assault. Mr. Gilbertson is no longer sheriff of Josephine County after he was defeated in the last election. Gilbertson, who faced charges of stolen valor, was replaced by Dave Danielwho also states he will ignore Oregon law.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Open Carry Samaritan)

Jason Erik Washington was on the campus of Portland State University when he witnessed an argument between two men, one of whom used a racial slur. The men began to fight each other.

That's when, armed with his openly-carried handgun and a valid conceal carry permit, he leaped into the fight to try to break it up.


Meanwhile, two armed university police officers were already arriving to do the same thing. Washington continued to try to break up the fighters even as the police were attempting to do so.


A witness took a video of the incident. Here's a screenshot from that video where I highlighted the gun hanging off his hip, at 18 seconds into it:


From an article: 

Video footage shows what appears to be a black object attached to Washington’s right side as he’s seen pulling one man off another. Two PSU police officers can also be seen. 
“The gun slipped out of the holster when he had fallen, and I think he may have tried to retrieve it,” Smith said. “Then they said ‘gun.’” 
That’s when police fired, she said.
Watch the video and judge for yourself. You can hear the police telling him to drop his gun. And, one witness....
....recalled the man reaching for his gun after police told him three or four times not to. 
"They warned him multiple times not to reach for it, but he did," Dietz said. "I don't want the message out there that the cops were trigger-happy." Dietz said employees at the Cheerful Tortoise did everything they could to stop the situation from escalating like it did.  "It's just that people got drunk and stubborn," he added.  "They had to do it," he said of the officers involved. "People think they were overzealous, but they had to do it."
One friend of his, named Joseph, had this to say:
"I saw the video, and there is no way he should have been shot," Joseph said. "I wish he didn't have a gun on him, because this probably wouldn't have happened if he didn't."
According to an article:
Washington was a Navy veteran and an employee with the United States Postal Service since 1998. He worked with the collections unit as a letter carrier at the main office in downtown Portland, where he also served as the union shop steward. 
Washington was married with three kids and one grandchild.
And now those kids, wife, and grandchild have lost him in their lives, because he chose to arm himself, and because those police reacted the way they did.  This is also an example of how being a military veteran doesn't automatically make you more responsible with your guns.

PSU voted to arm its police force in 2015, despite opposition from students.


[this post is part of an ongoing series of people being shot to death despite being armed (and sometimes because they are armed)]
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Music Video: "Sound of Surviving" by Nichole Nordeman


HERE is a link to the YouTube video, where you can also find links to purchase the song and contact information for the singer, Nichole Nordeman.



Lyrics:

They told me I’d never get to tell my story Too many bullet holes It would take a miracle These voices Inside my head like poison Trying to steal my hope Silencing my soul But my story is only now beginning Don’t try to write my ending Nobody gets to sing my song This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting This is the sound of surviving These pieces The ones that left me bleeding Intended for my pain Became the gift you gave me I gathered those pieces into a mountain My freedom is in view I’m stronger than I knew And this hill is not the one I die on I’m going to lift my eyes and I’m going to keep on climbing I’m still here Say it to the ache, lying there awake Say it to your tears I'm still here Say it to the pain, say it to the rain Say it to your fear This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting No, I'm not done fighting And I am still rising Rising, I'm still rising And I'm not done fighting This is the sound of surviving Music video by Nichole Nordeman performing Sound Of Surviving. (C) 2017 Capitol Christian Music Group, Inc.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Arm Teachers In Florida? Parkland School Board Says No. One Teacher Disagreed - And Had A Gun Accident

After the Parkland shooting, there was tremendous pressure on the Florida Governor Rick Scott to take action.  He signed into law a bill called the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" which raised the age to buy all firearms to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, provides new mental health programs for schools, and restricted access to guns from people who show signs of mental illness or violence.

But, in a nod to the NRA and President Trump's call to arm teachers, the act also now allows Florida schools to choose to arm their teachers and staff.  It's a provision that is vocally opposed by teaching organizations, child advocacy groups, Florida school students, and even the families of school shooting victims. 

Nevermind that no school shooting was ever stopped by an armed civilian who wasn't law enforcement. And, as I've pointed out in a prior post, at least 23 incidents have been CAUSED on school grounds by armed individuals, including guards, who were supposed to be the sort the NRA claims will protect our children.

The Parkland school district isn't playing along -- the very school district where the shooting occurred -- and is refusing to arm their staff:
“I have not met one teacher or one student who is in favor of arming teachers in Broward County,” board member Laurie Levinson said. 
The school board instead wants the allotted money from the bill to go toward armed school resource officers, CBS Miami reported. 
“We should definitely launch a campaign to persuade the governor, for those districts who do not want to arm their employees, that they give us the money to keep kids safe in other ways,” board member Robin Bartleman said.
(And they aren't the only Florida school board to reject the notion).

Well, actually, there was one teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was open to the idea of packing heat on campus.  Science teacher Sean Simpson supported his students in their calls to bring tighter gun regulations, but he also stated about arming teachers: 
"I know there are some of us that are willing to take the training if it was offered and probably be another line of defense."
He was on campus when the shots rang out and the shooter killed 17 and injured 15. So why aren't the gun nuts trumpeting his assertion to arm himself on campus?  Probably because he promptly had an accident with his loaded gun:
[Simpson] told deputies he accidentally left the gun in a stall at the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier during a visit to the beach Sunday. While going back to retrieve it, he heard a gunshot and once back inside the bathroom, saw 69-year-old Joseph Spataro holding the gun.  
He left his loaded gun unattended in a public bathroom and a homeless man found it and fired it "to see if it was loaded." Luckily no one was injured. Oopsie! So much for that NRA poster child!  According to responding deputies:
"There was a reasonable likelihood that the firearm could have ended up in the hands of a child or the discharge of the firearm could have wounded another person or child."
Imagine if he had left that gun in the school bathroom instead!  It's happened before, again, and again, and again.

Both Simpson and the homeless person are facing charges, but so far Simpson hasn't lost his job as a teacher.  I can only wonder what his students are thinking of him as they deal with their shooting-induced PTSD.  At least they can rest assured that neither he nor any of the other teachers will be allowed to carry on campus!

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