COQUILLE — More impassioned arguments regarding Second Amendment rights and Senate Bill 941 filled the Owen Building in Coquille on Tuesday during the Coos County Board of Commissioners meeting. And with news Monday that the Oregon bill expanding background checks to encompass nearly all gun sales made it through the legislature, the discourse ranged from angry to extremely emotional in nature.
Despite the continued discussion, a decision was not reached whether the commissioners would pass an ordinance opposing the measure or whether it would be put on the September ballot.
For now, a work session is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, when the commissioners will discuss the matter further with local county activist Rob Taylor, Sheriff Craig Zanni and anyone from the public who is interested.
Tom McKirgan, of Coquille and the Oath Keepers Southern Oregon coordinator, questioned why what he described as “bureaucrats and legislators in Salem” were running the lives of Coos County citizens from afar.
“What authority, what right do they have to dicker with our rights?” McKirgan said. “It's about power and money.”
McKirgan, who was one of a dozen who spoke up during the citizen comments period, also pleaded to the commissioners fervently.
“The Constitution is our backbone and what our country is founded on — it's our children's and our grandchildren's rights. What are you going to do to protect our rights?” he said. “You have the right to pass this ordinance. I'll be damned if I let my father, uncles, cousins and family members to have fought in vain. Pass this ordinance.”
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is likely to support the measure with her signature. The bill, which passed the Oregon House Monday on a 32-28 vote, with three Democrats joining all 25 Republicans in opposition, requires background checks on most private sales and transfers, with some exceptions. Once the measure takes effect, private sales would be required to take place in front of a licensed gun dealer who would run the check through Oregon State Police.
Zanni once again voiced his opinion during the citizen comments period, reiterating that SB 941 is a bad law and essentially a preemptive effort to begin gun registration. He also expressed his support of putting the measure on the September ballot.
“If you can lawfully own a .22, what difference does it make the caliber or make or model?” Zanni asked, eliciting applause from others who came to testify or listen.
For his part, Taylor said the only reason he's going to the board of commissioners again is because he and other Second Amendment supporters want the ordinance enacted as fast as possible. He said he'd prefer not to cost the county money on an election come September.
“If we can't get our ordinance passed through the board by the June 17 date we may have to force the county to do a September election and put it on the ballot. But we're going forward one way or another,” Taylor said. “The succession of the law is important — that's basically the urgency as to why we went to the board.”
Taylor currently has more than 1,200 signatures and said he expects to have 2,000 by the end of the month. All that is needed to put it on the ballot is 1,500.
For his part, Commissioner Bob Main said he has mixed emotions about passing the ordinance or having an overwhelming mandate by the people of Coos County to move on it through the electoral process.
“It's always good for them to say, 'This is what they wanted, period,'” Main said.
Commissioner Melissa Cribbins, who is also an attorney, had concerns about the ordinance from a legal point of view and suggested that Taylor's time would be better spent working on a referendum to appeal SB 941.
“It's because the ordinance doesn't get you where you want to be,” Cribbins said.
Commissioner John Sweet was not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting. Sweet, who is a member of the Ford Family Foundation, was fulfilling a foundation obligation giving college money to high school students throughout the state.