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Weeks After Mass Shooting, Oregon County Votes To Nullify Gun Control Laws

Demonstrators watch as President Barack Obama’s motorcade leaves Roseburg High School after a visit with families of victims of the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. The protesters were angry about Obama’s calls for gun restrictions in the wake of the shooting rampage that killed eight students and a teacher at the college. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RYAN KANG
Demonstrators watch as President Barack Obama’s motorcade leaves Roseburg High School after a visit with families of victims of the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. The protesters were angry about Obama’s calls for gun restrictions in the wake of the shooting rampage that killed eight students and a teacher at the college. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RYAN KANG

If the sheriff of Coos County, Oregon thinks any state or federal gun control law violates his 2nd Amendment right, he doesn’t have to enforce it, according to an ordinance passed this week by county voters.

Sixty-one percent of voters in rural Coos County voted to pass the “2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinance,” which also prohibits local enforcement of Oregon’s new background check law. That law requires universal background checks for gun purchases in the state — even for private sales.

Coos County is just west of Umpqua Community College, an Oregon university that was rocked by a mass shooting last month. The ordinance had been put on the ballot before the shooting, but after Oregon’s governor signed the new background check bill into law.

Here’s an excerpt of the ordinance:

Some text in the “2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinance,” which passed with 61 percent of the vote in Coos County, Oregon on Tuesday. CREDIT: co.coos.or.us
Some text in the “2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinance,” which passed with 61 percent of the vote in Coos County, Oregon on Tuesday. CREDIT: co.coos.or.us

It’s not clear, however, whether the ordinance can be legally implemented. Charlie Hinkle, a constitutional law expert in Portland, Oregon, told the Huffington Post that local governments and officials are not allowed to decide “what laws are constitutional.”

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“That’s why Kim Davis went to jail,” he reportedly said, referring to the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite the fact that the Supreme Court said that same-sex marriage is a fundamental civil right across the country. Hinkle said Coos County’s sheriff may face similar court hearings and possibly jail time if he refuses to comply with the laws in his state.

For what it’s worth, even Coos County’s current sheriff admitted that the new measure likely won’t be implemented smoothly, if at all.

“I’m not sure the courts would agree with that concept,” he told The Oregonian last month. “I would just bet there would be some legal challenges to it.”

Other counties in the state have passed similar measures, but they’ve largely been symbolic — a way to show support for gun rights in the southeastern and western parts of the state, where gun ownership is above average.

Indeed, outside of more liberal areas like Portland, Oregon is home to a large number of gun rights supporters. Memorably, many of them protested president Obama’s visit to Umpqua Community College following the mass shooting last month, angry about his calls for stricter gun laws following the tragedy.

Update:

A previous version of this story said that Coos County is just east of Umpqua Community College. It is just west.