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Gun ownership rules best left to Legislature

In the next couple weeks, you will probably begin to hear and read a lot more news coverage regarding a Multnomah County ordinance allowing the district attorney to bring charges against adults who allow youths unrestricted access to firearms. The ordinance also prohibits people from carrying a loaded weapon within the county.

What you will hear is that Multnomah County commissioners, about 14 months ago, passed this ordinance, which almost immediately encountered a legal challenge from five people living in Fairview, Gresham and Troutdale. These folks argue that the county’s authority should only reach to unincorporated portions of the county.

But Multnomah County has signaled its intent to defend its ordinance, saying it should apply countywide — in unincorporated portions of the county, as well as in cities within the county.

The case is scheduled to be heard July 9 by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht.

Of course, the June 10 Reynolds High School shooting has brought this topic back to the forefront. Jared Padgett, 15, killed a classmate, wounded a teacher and took his own life at the school, and the rifle he used is allegedly owned by his brother, Lucas Padgett, who is 24. The court decision could pave the way for the county to enforce its ordinance against members of the Padgett family, who live in Gresham.

We have already expressed our opinion that such a law is long overdue. Those who possess firearms should be held legally accountable for failing to lock their weapons away from the reach of minors.

But we part company with Multnomah County on this issue because the county is the wrong place from which this law should originate.

We strongly defend the authority of local municipalities — such as Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village — to decide for themselves if this ordinance makes sense for their communities.

We are uncomfortable with the county anointing itself with the authority to enact ordinances — whatever they may be — that circumvent city government.

And while we oppose the county’s ordinance, we also strongly support the overriding principle of holding people accountable for their ownership of firearms. The Legislature is a much more appropriate venue for debating and enacting policy on this issue.

Rather than a piecemeal approach with each city and county adopting their own rules and penalties, this topic warrants a full airing in the Legislature and adoption as a statewide law. A statewide approach would eliminate the confusion that would inevitably arise as people move between each city and each county.

Local municipalities should join their collective voices to those who will argue against the county during the July 9 hearing before Judge Albrecht.

And then in unison, East County residents should call upon their elected legislative leaders to do what Multnomah County is already attempting to do — keep guns out of the hands of unsupervised minors.



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