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Linn County Sheriff says part of gun initiative won’t be enforced

Guns for sale at a Portland gun show.
Dave Blanchard
Supporters of Measure 114 argue the initiative will reduce gun violence in Oregon.

The sheriff of Linn County said she won’t enforce a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that’s part of an initiative leading in current election results.

If its current lead holds, Measure 114 would tighten Oregon’s gun laws by creating a permit-to-purchase system. It would also ban ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds.

Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan said that part is a non-starter in her mid-Willamette Valley community.

“I want to send a clear message,” she wrote in a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday, the day after the election. “The Sheriff’s office is not going to be enforcing magazine capacity limits.”

The post has been shared more than 10,000 times and, as of Thursday afternoon, had been commented on more than 6,000 times. Some people applauded Duncan's announcement, while others questioned how a law enforcement agency could choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore.

Duncan did not return a call placed to her cell phone Thursday.

In her statement, she said she expected the initiative would be the subject of a lawsuit. "This is a terrible law for gunowners, crime victims, and public safety," she wrote.

Duncan was appointed sheriff in January when the previous sheriff retired mid-term. She was on the ballot this month in an attempt to win a full term. As of Thursday, she was leading her opponent, Jon Raymond, by nearly 7,000 votes.

Measure 114 is currently leading statewide by a relatively narrow 51%-to-49% margin. It was fiercely opposed in much of rural Oregon, including in Linn County, where—as of Thursday—nearly 70 percent of voters rejected it.

It fared much better in more populated areas including Lane County and the three Portland-area counties. Supporters said the initiative is meant to reduce gun violence in Oregon.

A spokesperson for the "Yes on 114" campaign said if the results stand, the measure “will be the law of the land.”

"We look forward to working with elected officials, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to ensure effective implementation of this life-saving community safety policy," said the spokesperson, Anthony Johnson.

Duncan isn't the only Oregon sheriff to speak out against Measure 114, though some—including those in Jackson County and Klamath County—have both called it "unconstitutional" but did not specifically say their agency wouldn't enforce it.

Elsewhere, the top law enforcement officer in Oregon's second-smallest county, by population, said before the election that he would not enforce parts of the initiative.

"Measure 114 would make it a crime for you to possess or buy magazines that can hold more than ten rounds," said Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey in a press release issued on county letterhead in October. "There is absolutely no way my sheriff's office would ever arrest someone for this crime."

A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment from KLCC about how the agency views statements from law enforcement officials promising to ignore certain state laws.

If Measure 114 ultimately prevails, it won't take effect until early 2023, though legal challenges could potentially delay implementation.

Oregon sheriffs have, in the past, pledged not to enforce certain gun laws that they don't personally support. In 2013, at least eight sheriffs, including one of Duncan's predecessors in Linn County, sent a letter to then-President Barack Obama saying they wouldn't enforce unspecified new federal gun laws.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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