Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum announced today that the Oregon Court of Appeals has invalidated a Columbia County ordinance that claims to nullify state and federal gun safety laws within the county.
The ordinance was adopted by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners in March of 2021. It had been preceded by two similar voter-enacted measures. After adopting the 2021 ordinance, the county brought a legal proceeding asking the courts to determine whether the ordinance is valid. The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) appeared in the proceeding, arguing that the ordinance violates state law and is invalid.
“Oregon’s gun safety laws exist to protect all Oregonians. Local ordinances declaring those measures to be unenforceable put people at unnecessary risk and they are illegal! Today’s opinion by the Court of Appeals makes it clear that common sense requirements like safe storage and background checks apply throughout Oregon,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “Hopefully, other counties with similar measures on the books will see the writing on the wall. But we have successfully fought these measures in three counties so far, and we will keep fighting them!”
The trial court ultimately declined to rule on the measure, ruling that Columbia County could not instigate legal proceedings if it did not intend to defend the legality of its ordinance. In today’s decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals first decided that the trial court was wrong to dismiss the matter. The purpose of validation proceedings is for state courts to decide whether local ordinances are valid, and a local government does not need to be confident its measure is valid in order to take advantage of the process.
The Court of Appeals went on to determine that the Columbia County ordinance violates state law, as DOJ has argued all along. The county will now decide whether to seek review in the Supreme Court. But the decision of the Court of Appeals is a statewide appellate decision with ramifications for other similar ordinances in other counties. DOJ successfully fought similar nullification measures in Yamhill and Harney Counties.