After an election, as voters, we hope to take a collective breath, look around at the changes on the horizon due to our collective decisions and as winners and losers move forward with those changes, knowing they came from our collective will. That's democracy, plain and simple. Many had a collective sigh of relief after this last election that the majority of voters still believe in the rule of law and in accepting the outcomes of elections, even if some of our purported leaders did not.
With this in mind, it's simply exhausting to see what sheriffs around the state—including those in Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties are saying in regard to Measure 114, the statewide gun measure that passed in Oregon this month. Sheriffs in these counties have taken to their pulpits to say that they either don't plan to enforce the new law, or that they don't plan to place priority on it. And in a quick puff of smoke, this dereliction of duty puts us back on the campaign trail.
While stopping short of banning assault weapons all together, Measure 114 was a half-step intended to limit the number of bullets inside a magazine and thus make it harder for someone to mow people down quickly. Measure 114 also requires citizens to obtain a permit to buy a gun and requires law enforcement to maintain a database of permit holders. These are hardly gun-grabbing measures which is probably the only reason it passed.
While we'll admit that the rollout of the measure seems rather abrupt, with a deadline of the second week of December for permits and full implementation of the law by late January, that's far less concerning than having a few sheriffs who we've elected to be the highest law enforcement officers in the county go rogue and decide to cherry pick which laws they'll decide to enforce.
Imagine your own supervisor's face when you told them you simply weren't going to comply with the parts of the job you didn't agree with.
In Jefferson County, Sheriff Jason Pollock said he believes the measure violates the U.S. Constitution and complained that Portland-area votes shouldn't have this much influence over rural people's lives. But, unfortunately, for Pollock that is not the issue at hand. Sheriffs following state law is infinitely more important. This is not 1884 in the Old West, where, in absence of over-arching laws, sheriffs were the ultimate authority.
Here in Deschutes, Sheriff Shane Nelson said the measure, "requires every sheriff's office and police agency to devote scarce safety resources to background systems that already exist." That may be true, but we do not expect the next sentence to be, "so I won't be following the will of the voters." What we hope to hear is, "I will do my best to find a solution." Thankfully we don't ask our local sheriffs to be constitutional scholars. That's what the courts are for.
The recent tragedy in Colorado Springs follows on the heels of many other shootings like the one here at our Bend Safeway, and voters have responded by nudging elected officials to begin acting on what are modest gun restrictions. In the case of the Colorado Springs shooter, it's possible that implementation of a red flag law—another boogieman in the eyes of many sheriffs—could have kept the shooter, who was arrested for allegedly threatening his mother with a bomb and weapons in 2021, from having the weapons needed to kill five people Saturday night.
If the courts agree with these sheriffs that this law is unconstitutional, only then would it be appropriate for local law enforcement to do or say anything differently than what the new law outlines. Likewise, if funding is the issue, sheriffs should be involved in the implementation of this law to ensure they have the funds they need to move forward. Cost of implementation should not be the deciding factor in implementing a law that a majority of Oregonians voted in favor of.
In any case, it's time for local sheriffs to do their jobs and to enforce the laws of our state—all of them.