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On Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, a man was seen walking with a rifle over his shoulder near four public schools in the Hillsboro School District: Imlay Elementary School, Ladd Acres Elementary School, R.A. Brown Middle School and Century High School. The man was on public sidewalks and displayed no threatening behavior.

On July 18, another man strolled through the Pacific University campus in Forest Grove with a semi-automatic rifle strapped to his back and a pistol in a side holster.

Oregon has an “open carry” law, which stipulates that a citizen has the right to publicly carry a firearm in plain sight. Fair enough. We don’t have a problem with that.

Yet we also think it’s understandable that most people don’t appreciate seeing a stranger walking around with a firearm. It’s natural that upon seeing someone with a rifle, a student, teacher, parent or a passing motorist is going to call 911. In the Hillsboro case, about a dozen people did so, and as a result, on Sept. 19 Brown Middle School and Imlay Elementary School went into lockout. A lockout is when a potential threat is outside the building, and students and teachers are allowed to continue classes as normal — they just can’t be outside.

We live in an era in which we are no longer surprised when there is a mass shooting somewhere in the United States. It seems to happen every other week or so. In some of the most horrible cases, schools have been involved: Virginia Tech University. Columbine High School. Sandy Hook Elementary School.

One parent summed up her feelings about the incident this way: “Any man with a gun walking around schools ... is terrifying.”

We agree, and the reason why might be the biggest shock to come out of these two recent incidents. In both cases, when police officers responded to reports of an armed man, they were not allowed to find out the identity of the subject involved. Yes, that’s correct. Lt. Mike Rouches of the Hillsboro Police Department pointed out that if a person is not doing anything illegal, police officers have no legal authority to find out his or her identity.

“It’s no different than anyone walking down the street in violation of no laws or infractions,” Rouches explained. “We can ask, but in those cases with no cause for a violation or crime, everyone has the right to refuse to be identified. We asked him; he refused.”

That’s crazy. It’s unbelievable.

In “YouTube” videos he has posted, the unidentified man in the Forest Grove incident — he goes by the name “MarkedGuardian” in the videos — said his objective was to normalize the sight of firearms in public. He wants people to know most gun owners are peaceful.

We already know that. But we also know that every once in a while, someone somewhere with a gun explodes in violence and leaves a terrible tragedy in his wake. And there is no easy way to tell in advance who that person might be.

Open carry is a right in Oregon, and we support it. Yet some people are prohibited by law from owning a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of domestic violence crimes and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. We certainly don’t want terrorists to have weapons, either. But if the police are not allowed to check a person’s identity, how can they be sure the unidentified person is not a felon; someone recently released from a mental institution; someone who has no right to have a gun?

This is what needs to change. Open carry, fine. But providing identification if and when asked to do so by a police officer should absolutely be part of the law.

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