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Firearms ordinance may be off-target

It seems that Multnomah County may have missed the mark with its recently approved firearms ordinance.

Attorney Bruce McCain on Monday, April 29, filed a tort claim notice with Multnomah County Attorney Jenny Morf, challenging the scope of an ordinance unanimously adopted by the five-member board of commissioners on Thursday, April 25.

The widely publicized ordinance takes effect 30 days after it was adopted and mirrors a series of gun-control measures approved by the city of Portland in 2010.

It bans possession of a loaded firearm in public with exceptions for licensed hunters engaged in lawful hunting, target shooters at an established target shooting area, people licensed to carry a concealed weapon and law enforcement officers in the performance of their official duty.

McCain said that the ordinance is off target in its assertion that it applies to all of Multnomah County — including the cities of Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview — “unless a city enacts separate legislation on the matter.”

“That's crazy,” he said. “They're giving the impression that this is wall-to-wall from the west hills to the Sandy River, but that's not the case. “

“To the contrary,” McCain wrote in his tort claim notice, “a county ordinance may not be imposed upon a city without that city's consent. However, a city may voluntarily consent to having a county ordinance apply to that city.”

In fact, the ordinance only applies to unincorporated Multnomah County, or parts of the county that are not part of incorporated cities — mainly Corbett, Sauvie Island and the area east of Gresham. “It applies to roughly 2 percent of the county's population,” McCain said.

Simply put, “There's a lot of confusion,” he said.

County commissioners called the gun safety measures common sense and said the ordinance was intended to make the community safer in the wake of two mass shootings last December. While one took place in a Connecticut elementary school, where an entire classroom was massacred, another hit closer to home, killing two just south of Portland at the Clackamas Town Center.

McCain said he thinks county commissioners were aiming to create continuity by modeling the county ordinance after Portland's, but instead, missed missed the mark. “I don't know whether it was an oversight or whether they're simply downplaying it,” he said.

The county attorney was out of the office on Monday, but Deputy County Attorney Jacquie Weber said “we don't comment on tort claim notices.”

Laura Shepard, Gresham's spokeswoman, said the county ordinance has no effect on the city. Gresham already has a firearms ordinance that prohibits people from discharging a firearm in public, including in parks, on trails or in open spaces.



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