A group of Ashland residents has launched an online petition calling for local gun restrictions, prompting an Oregon gun-rights group to threaten a lawsuit and urge an economic boycott of the city.
Ashland City Council will learn more about the proposed gun control regulations during a study session on Feb. 3.
A group called Citizens for a Safe Ashland has gathered about 175 signatures on its online petition posted on www.change.org. Who is involved in the group is unclear; a couple identified by City Councilor Carol Voisin as organizers did not return phone calls.
A petition by Citizens for a Safe Ashland to enact gun regulations in town has attracted dozens of comments from people on the issue. The comments come from the change.org petition website.
"This just makes sense. It is unsafe for people to carry loaded guns in public places, and children should not have access to guns. Passing these ordinances will help keep Ashland residents (and visitors) and children safer!"
— Lorin Groshong, Ashland
"I'd bet about anything that if some crazed
criminal went on some kind of a spree and started
harming innocent citizens, you would not mind the fact that someone was there with the ability to stop them. More laws that limit responsible,
law-abiding gun owners from carrying a gun will not affect how criminals act. Criminals will carry guns no matter what laws are on the books."
— Todd Kemp, Ashland
"It is time to legally
curtail the senseless
violence caused by the use of guns that occurs in
public places such as theaters, schools and other public places. Additionally the children and adolescents in our community should be protected from accidental and unintended access to firearms."
— Kathleen Brandon, Ashland
"I have grandchildren in the Ashland schools and am concerned for their safety, as well as my own."
— Diane Schaffer, Ashland
It calls for city regulations banning people from openly carrying loaded firearms in public places, including in vehicles in public areas.
Certain groups, such as police officers and people with concealed handgun licenses, would be exempt.
Citizens for a Safe Ashland also want to make it illegal for a person to fail to prevent access by a minor to a loaded or unloaded firearm without the permission of the person, a parent or a guardian.
The person would need to keep the gun locked away, for example.
The regulations would not apply if the gun is equipped with a locking device that prevents minors or unauthorized users from firing it, according to proposed ordinance language drafted by the group.
Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, has called on gun rights supporters to avoid spending their vacation dollars in Ashland.
"It would be foolish for gun owners to go there because they could be charged with a crime," Starrett said. "Why spend money in a place that treats you like a criminal for exercising your Second Amendment rights?"
The Oregon Firearms Federation, which has a logo of an assault rifle superimposed on a map of the state, bills itself as "Oregon's only no compromise gun lobby."
Starrett said Oregonians are legally allowed to carry guns in public as long as they make no attempt to conceal the weapons.
People who carry hidden guns must have concealed weapons permits.
Starrett said localities are allowed to require people to unload guns that they carry openly in public.
Several Oregon cities already have local laws prohibiting openly carrying loaded guns in public places, according to Citizens for a Safe Ashland.
Portland and Multnomah County have additional laws making it illegal to endanger a child by allowing unauthorized access to a firearm, the group said.
Starrett said he does not believe it is legal for local jurisdictions to impose laws on how gun owners store their weapons. He said only the state government has that power.
The Oregon Firearms Federation will sue the city of Ashland if it enacts laws governing gun storage, Starrett vowed.
"We'd love to sue them. We'd be thrilled to take them on," he said. "We believe they're asking for a lawsuit."
City Councilor Rich Rosenthal said he is getting flooded with messages from opponents and proponents of gun restrictions in Ashland.
"The strident nature of the pro-gun side has been a major turn-off, to be honest. The majority of them are not Ashlanders. They are threatening our community with an economic boycott," Rosenthal said.
"This is just a concept that's being discussed at a study session. The council hasn't done anything yet. Their arguments are premature and off-base," he added.
Rosenthal said that he has received some respectful, thoughtful comments from those who oppose the proposed regulations, and he appreciated those messages.
Rosenthal said he needs to learn details of the proposals and is looking forward to getting more information at the study session.
"I'm open to policies that make our community safer, but I don't know the details," he said.
Rosenthal said he needs to know how the regulations would be implemented, whether they would work for Ashland and if they can be enforced in a reasonable way.
Voisin, who agreed to place the issue on the council's February study session agenda at the request of the petitioners, said she believes the proposed regulations are moderate and practical.
"I'm very impressed with what they're doing," she said.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he is keeping an open mind about the issue and is waiting to learn more details.
"This is a big issue in our community and nationally. Anything that involves constitutional rights is very serious. It's very important to me to stay open-minded and neutral during the process," he said.
Lemhouse said he hopes everyone with an interest in the issue can have a civil discussion.
"It's always a bad idea to encourage people to boycott Ashland. We see it on all sides of issues. It's especially bad this premature in the process without knowing how it will turn out," he said. "I hope everyone will stay away from threats and boycotts."
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.