Gresham City Attorney issues memo siding with the plaintiffs

Five local residents are challenging a recently adopted Multnomah County firearms ordinance on the grounds that it doesn't apply to cities, only unincorporated parts of the county – and Gresham's city attorney seems to agree with them.

Gresham residents Roxanne Ross, Cheryl Bowen and Frank Martin, along with Frank Grande of Troutdale and Brian Grattan of Fairview filed suit on Friday, July 12, asking for a judge to review the ordinance that Multnomah County commissioners adopted in May.

The ordinance prohibits possession of a loaded gun in public places and prohibits firing guns county wide, among other limitations, and further states that it applies to all cities within Multnomah County unless those cities enact their own separate firearms ordinances.

County commissioners have said the ordinance was needed to create consistency across the county.

Attorney Bruce McCain, who is representing the five East Multnomah County residents in the suit, said the ordinance only applies to the county's unincorporated areas, such as Corbett east of the Sandy River.

That's only about 3 percent of the county's residents, he said. Besides, the only way the county ordinance can apply to various cities is if those cities adopted the county's firearm ordinance as their own.

The lawsuit seeks a judicial review to invalidate the ordinance.

While McCain's clients are interested in whether they can use their firearms in Gresham, Troudale and Fairview, the larger question is whether county laws supersede city laws. "It's really a municipal laws battle," McCain said. "If they can do this with gun regulations, could they do it with Portland's new sick leave policy?"

McCain is asking politicians from Gresham, Troudale, Wood Village and Fairview for support, and gained an ally during the Gresham City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 16.

In a council memorandum, Gresham City Attorney David Ris outlined the city's already existing firearms regulations and concluded that the county's ordinance "does not apply within the City of Gresham."

McCain said the city attorney's memorandum emphasizes the need for a judge to weigh in on these conflicting opinions and declare who is right.

The county could have avoided all this trouble if it had just included language in the ordinance limiting it to unincorporated areas of Multnomah County, as it has done in past ordinances, McCain said. He compares the ordinance to Multnomah County's animal-control law, which every city throughout the county has adopted as municipal law.

"Instead, the county deliberately chose to not include that language for political reasons," he said, referencing a Willamette Week article in which County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury is quoted as saying the ordinance was deliberately written to make Multnomah County cities fall in line.

"She ... should have known those are fightin’ words east of I-205," McCain said.

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