It's difficult to call what the Ashland city Council engaged in on the evening of Feb. 3, 2014, a "study" session of the proposed gun ordinance. While the city attorney and the police chief provided their respective expert advice, only Councilman Greg Lemhouse and Mayor John Stromberg asked thoughtful questions while probing for facts and information. The rest of the council seemed to have either little interest in this area or to have a predetermined agenda driven by emotion.
As a longtime resident of Ashland, it was disappointing to see one of the council, Carol Voisin, display complete lack of knowledge on many relevant issues. She did not know the meaning of a court of record in legal proceedings, and she seemed totally surprised and disappointed to hear that Oregon does not use police check points, which could be used to justify her implied desire to have citizens searched and their property seized without probable cause, thus betraying a lack of knowledge and/or concern for the Fourth Amendment. Further, by voicing the opinion of a foreign citizen in a local matter, she seemed to have forgotten that she is a local representative and not a representative of a party living 3,000 miles away. Local citizens had no way to rebut a nonresident's opinion about Newtown, with the view that a) Newtown had nothing to do with "open carry" laws, and b) many lives could have been saved if only one school administrator had been a trained carrier of a firearm. We now know that these types of incidents have more to do with overprescribed drugs and an unhealthy addiction to violent video games.
Citizens of Ashland should be concerned about the following as it relates to the local, proposed firearms ordinance:
1. The probability that the city will have to spend hundreds of thousands of local taxpayer dollars in legal fees to defend an unnecessary and ineffective ordinance.
2. The extra pressure it will put on the limited resources of the local police department, and the many unresolved issues of enforcement.
3. If not one reported police incident has involved a person with an openly carried, loaded firearm, why is the council spending so much time, money and energy on a nonexistent problem, and in the process provoking emotions and division in the community?
4. The ordinance will do absolutely nothing to prevent crime. It's unlikely that criminals will openly carry a loaded firearm. You usually find out too late that they have a gun.
5. FBI statistics for 2011-2012 report that the states with the most lenient gun laws have the lowest percentage of gun-related violent crimes.
Last summer, as I was out for a walk, in a town where there had recently been two attempted rapes by transients and an unsolved murder (not with a gun), I saw what appeared to be a college girl, riding by on a bicycle. She had a pistol strapped to her side. I thought to myself, especially since I'm raising daughters to be self-reliant and responsible: Here is a free, empowered woman. She is making a statement: Don't mess with me. I won't be a victim. I will defend myself, and if necessary, may even defend you.
While we will never go back to the wild west, we need to see such sights every once in a while to remind us that we don't live in oppressive, totalitarian state, where this young woman may very well have been harassed and stripped searched by police who, if the council votes in this ordinance, will need no probable cause to detain and harass responsible citizens.
If the proposed ordinance is passed it will do nothing to provide security, but it will continue the process of depriving us of freedoms under the Second and most importantly the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Rod Petrone lives in Ashland.