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Ballot Initiative Threatens 2nd Amendment Rights Sheriff Hanlin says “Not on My Watch”

Roseburg, OR-Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin has built a reputation as a ‘Constitutional Sheriff, and has been very public about his stance in being true to his oath of office, particularly when it comes to the Second Amendment.

The three-term Sheriff first joined the DCSO 28 years ago. Prior to his election as Sheriff he had served in a number of capacities including head of DINT, Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team and Commander of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Detectives division. 

As Douglas County Sheriff, Hanlin was first thrust into the national spotlight five years ago, when he sent a letter to then Vice President Joe Biden informing the Obama Administration that he would not enforce any proposed federal laws that violate the U.S. or Oregon Constitutions. From that letter sent to V.P. Biden January 15, 2013, Hanlin stated; “It is my position as Sheriff of Douglas County, Oregon, that I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional.

In the ‘Biden letter’ Hanlin also cited the basis for his refusal to enforce the then proposed Obama administration’s additional restrictions on gun owners. “The United States Supreme Court has ruled that when a Sheriff chooses to enforce an unconstitutional directive, he is violating his Constitutional Oath. 

I will NOT violate my Constitutional Oath.” Hanlin was joined by Sheriffs nationwide, many of whom were members or supporters of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, who address law enforcement issues such as Second Amendment, enforcement jurisdiction, and federal control of lands, from a constitutional basis.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s second major foray into Second Amendment protection for county residents came in 2015 with the Oregon legislature’s passage of SB941. Hanlin testified against the bill at the State Capitol in Salem. Senate Bill 941 passed in the Senate by a vote of 17 to 13 along strict party lines, and passed in the House by a vote of 32 to 28 with three House democrats voting against the bill and no republicans in support. The bill, which took effect May 11, 2015, requires that any private gun sales between parties be a registered transaction and a background check completed prior to transfer. In Hanlin’s testimony he said, “I am certain that SB 941 would NOT prevent criminals from acquiring firearms.” 

Upon the Bill’s passage Sheriff Hanlin once again took the lead in defense of Second Amendment rights for Douglas County residents due to the “infringement” on the rights of citizens to own and transfer ownership of their firearms. “This law makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens” said Hanlin. He added that the law is completely unenforceable, and is an unfunded mandate for the local jurisdictions charged with enforcement. “We simply do not have the resources in terms of staff to administer the program, but even if the state provided the funding, I still couldn’t support it.” 

The following is from an August 19, 2015 memorandum from Sheriff Hanlin to all Douglas County Sheriff’s staff:

Effective immediately,the following policy shall be adhered to in regards to complaints involving SB 941. Any calls for service, complaints or issues involving the private transfer of firearms, specifically, those transfers of privately owned firearms that are described under SB 941, shall not be investigated or responded to by this agency. Any suspected violations of SB 941 shall be referred to the Sheriff.

This agency shall take no part in sting operations nor shall we provide or give information upon request to other agencies regarding the sale or transfer of firearms as defined by SB 941. SB 941 violations also come with a pretty hefty penalty, the first offence is a Class A misdemeanor, the second is a Class C felony, which means if convicted the “guilty” could not own a firearm of any kind and would lose their right to vote.

Asked how many arrests have been made since SB 941 passed Hanlin replied “not one investigation, not one arrest. Now, with the potential of a ballot measure in Oregon coming before the voters in November of 2018, which proposes to ban the ownership of so-called assault weapons, it looks as though Sheriff Hanlin is once again stepping into the fray.

A group of citizens have put together a County Ordinance, which has already passed in four counties, entitled the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance (SAPO), and is coming before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners as a scheduled item on the agenda on April 25. 

According to Board Chair Gary Leif the commissioners are in receipt of the proposed ordinance and are considering a variety of options following the public hearing on the 25th. One option would be to adopt an ordinance provided a majority of the three commissioners approve the language, while another option would be to approve placement of the proposed county ordinance on the November ballot, allowing the voters to weigh in on the new law.

According to Section 2 C of SAPO, “any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms or ancillary firearms rights that violate the Second, Ninth, or Tenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, or Article 1, sections 27 and 33 of the Constitution of the State of Oregon, as articulated herein, shall be regarded by the People on and in Douglas County as unconstitutional; a transgression of the Supreme Law of the Land and its spirit of Liberty, and therefore by necessity void ab initio.” And any such laws shall be deemed unenforceable. Further the SAPO ordinance would provide for enforcement provisions for any violations, including stiff fines.

Sheriff Hanlin said he is reviewing the language of current version of SAPO and that he had been asked to look at a similar measure about a year ago, which he said didn’t have enough “teeth”, meaning ability to enforce. “What I did not want was something that was just symbolic.” The new version has teeth, in fact provides for fines per occurrence up to $4,000 for any enforcement that violates the ordinance.

This SAPO ordinance may become crucial, organizers believe, due to Initiative Petition 43 being circulated statewide which would ban certain types of firearms and so-called high capacity magazines or ammo cartridges that are currently legal under Oregon law, and require they be turned in to the government, disabled permanently, or taken out of the state.

There is also a provision in IP 43, under very limited circumstances, which allows someone to “register” the guns/ accessories they already owned prior to the law’s passage, but they would not be able to acquire any new firearms proscribed under the law.

As far as Sheriff Hanlin is concerned IP43 is another clear- cut issue of adhering to his constitutional oath of office, to uphold and defend the constitution; “I could never support this initiative.” Among the many problems Hanlin sees in the language of the measure is the definition of assault weapons. He even took issue with the opening paragraph in Section 2 “The people of the State of Oregon find and declare that a reduction in the availability of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines will promote the public health and safety of the residents of this state.”  “This is not a statement supported by facts” said Hanlin, going on to cite the example of the horrific shooting at UCC October 1, 2015. “We lost nine precious lives that day, but not one ‘assault’ weapon was used.” 

Kevin Starrett, Executive Director of Oregon Firearms Federation told the Beacon they are being flooded with phone calls and e-mails from everyday Oregonians wanting to know how they can stop this attack on their Second Amendment rights. He said that OFF has experienced an “unprecedented response from gun owners”, the likes of which he said he hasn’t seen in over 40 years of working on Second Amendment issues. Not even the backlash over Oregon SB 941.

The Oregon State Sheriffs Association (OSSA) is analyzing IP43 and may vote on it within the next month or so according to Hanlin, and he feels the vast majority of the 36 Sheriffs in Oregon will stand with him and oppose IP43.

Other Oregon Sheriffs have already gone public with their opposition to IP43.

Sheriff Shane Nelson of Deschutes County made the following statement:

“As your Sheriff, I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States of America and the State of Oregon. In addition to this, I swore to perform the duties of Deschutes County Sheriff to the best of my ability. 

I support and defend the Second Amendment and oppose IP 43.  

I serve the 190,000 citizens of our great county and am charged with public safety.   

 Our office has issued over 14,000 concealed handgun licenses  and I firmly believe that every responsible and accountable law abiding citizen who wants to legally own a firearm should do so. Firearms have their lawful place in society and are an important tool in personal protection and ensuring public safety in our county.” 

 Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins weighed in early in opposition to IP43 a couple weeks ago. On his FaceBook post he wrote; “These laws will not help protect me, my deputies or the public” adding “These laws, and any law restricting any type of arms, will only make us weaker, making ‘good people’ law breakers and ‘bad people’ stronger.” 

 When talking about the threat posed by IP 43 Sheriff Hanlin said “We have nothing to gain by sitting back and waiting, we need to be proactive.”