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Sheriffs in Washington, Multnomah counties weigh in on gun-control measures

Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett joined Thursday a growing list of sheriffs across Oregon who say they may not enforce some portions of federal gun control measures proposed Wednesday by President Obama.

Garrett wrote Thursday, Jan. 17, in an open letter to county residents that he would enforce parts of the proposed new regulations, but would not enforce any rules that “prevent law abiding Washington County citizens from possessing certain firearms or ammunition magazines.”

His one-page letter comes after four other sheriffs said they also would resist new gun-control measures they felt were unconstitutional and infringed on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

Sheriffs in Linn, Douglas, Grant and Cook counties have said similar things about the president’s proposed rules.

Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton also issued a letter Thursday, saying he supported the constitutional right to bear arms and didn’t plan to “change policy or practice with regard to recent reports I have heard of gun control measures proposed by elected officials locally or nationally.”

Staton said he has a procedure for evaluating and understanding any new legislation that affects Multnomah County residents. He would go through the same due diligence before enforcing any new gun control laws.

(Editor's note: An early version of this story misstated Staton's position on the gun control regulations.)

He added that if laws are adopted, he will evaluate the regulations before choosing to enforce them.

“No change in the practices of this office will come without both a clear understanding of the measures proposed or enacted into law, or a chance to hear back from the citizens of Multnomah County regarding these proposals,” Staton wrote. “Nor do I believe that a fast-tracked approach will be effective in improving what is a very complex issue in our country.”

President Obama proposed Wednesday several gun-control plans that include closing background check loopholes, banning assault-type weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines and expanding access to mental health services.

His 15-page plan was in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six school staff were killed by a 20-year-old gunman using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a handgun.

A similar weapon was used in the Dec. 11 shootings at Clackamas Town Center that killed two people and seriously injured a third person.

Garrett's letter says that he will “protect your Second Amendment rights” and “not enforce federal law that will infringe on those rights.”

Lawmakers in Salem also are considering proposals to limit the size of ammunition magazines and ban some military-style weapons.