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Oregon County Passes Measure Directing Sheriff To Block State And Federal Gun Laws

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/11/2015 Jennifer Bendery

WASHINGTON -- The residents of Coos County, Oregon, passed a ballot initiative Tuesday night that requires their sheriff to block the enforcement of state and federal gun laws that he thinks seem unconstitutional.

The 2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinance passed with 61 percent of the vote. The measure directs the sheriff to decide whether certain state and federal gun laws violate the Second Amendment. If he thinks they do, the county is then banned from using any resources to enforce those laws. Any county employee who violates the ordinance will be fined $2,000.

It is questionable how local officials would enforce the initiative.

Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni told The Oregonian last month that he is a strong supporter of gun rights, but had concerns about his role in deciding what is and isn't constitutional.

"I'm not sure the courts would agree with that concept," he said .  "I would just bet there would be some legal challenges to it."

Charlie Hinkle, a constitutional law expert in Portland, Oregon, said Zanni would be violating his oath of office by enacting a county ordinance that is contrary to state or federal law.

"Of course local officials can’t decide what laws are constitutional. That’s why Kim Davis went to jail," Hinkle told The Huffington Post. "Even the president can't decide what’s constitutional -- that’s why a federal court enjoined his executive orders regarding immigration." 

Similar measures have been adopted in Eastern Oregon's Wheeler and Wallowa counties, and they've amounted to little more than symbolism. Supporters want to use the ordinances to bar local enforcement of Oregon's background check law, which passed in May and expands checks to almost all gun sales in the state. The initiatives are also part of a broader push by pro-gun enthusiasts to make federal gun control "nearly impossible to enforce."

Tuesday's vote comes after the Oct. 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, which is a few hours east of Coos County. A gunman killed nine people and injured nine others that day, before taking his own life.

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