By Dave Lister
In response to the escalation in gang-related shootings in Portland, Mayor Sam Adams is proposing actions that are typical of those with liberal leanings. Rather than blaming the criminals, he’s blaming the guns, and he’s proposing five ordinances, some of which will restrict the gun rights of law-abiding citizens and will also likely end up in court because they violate Oregon’s firearms pre-emption law. The proposals appear to be hastily crafted and, if adopted, will likely have the unintended consequence of a huge increase in applications for concealed handgun licenses.
Adams’ first proposal would alter the city’s curfew code for minors. Depending on age or the day of the week, the current curfew is anywhere from 9:15 until midnight. Adams proposes to set the curfew to 9:15 for all days and ages if the subject minor has been found by a court to have been in violation of a firearms regulation.
The second proposal would create the new city crime of endangering a child by allowing access to firearms. Restricting children’s access to firearms is an obvious precaution practiced by responsible gun owners, but this potential law makes no sense. An adult would be held criminally responsible if a minor came into possession of his firearm without his permission. The unstated aim is to make gun owners buy safes or other devices to secure their firearms. But the ordinance also states that there’s no penalty if the child acquires and uses the firearm for self-defense. So how does that work? Do you train your older teens to use a firearm for self-defense and then make sure they can’t get to the weapon? Do you secure your firearms so thoroughly that you can’t defend yourself if you need to?
The third proposal would create another city crime for failing to report the theft or loss of a firearm. A gun owner would be required to report within 48 hours the theft of a firearm, including its description and serial number. A simple act of omission would turn a recent crime victim into a criminal and carry a $500 fine. If you do comply with the law, but can’t provide the serial number, you’d pay a $200 administrative fee. So you’d better write down the serial number of Grandpa’s 12 gauge that’s been sitting in your closet for 30 years since you inherited it.
The fourth proposal would create a mandatory sentence for the crime of possession of a loaded firearm in a public place. This prohibition, from which concealed handgun licensees are exempt, defines your personal vehicle as a public place. The current penalty is rarely enforced. And given a choice between the penalty or becoming a victim of rape, robbery or murder on the streets, I suspect most will choose to continue to protect themselves and not be deterred by the new penalty. If they are, they’ll likely get a concealed carry permit.
The fifth would create exclusion “hot spots” but would not exclude minors from the area if they live, work or go to school there — which is precisely where gang members stake out their turf.
Do you think a juvenile gang member intent on violence will care about a curfew or an exclusion zone? As they’re cruising through a rival neighborhood will they be deterred from carrying a loaded weapon because of a city ordinance? Will reporting a weapon being stolen prevent it from being used in a crime? Of course not.
But for Adams, it’s the appearance of doing something. And if you’re unable to affect the socio-economic conditions fueling gang violence, it’s better than doing nothing.