By News-Register staff • 

Judge throws out county gun 'sanctuary' ordinance


Presiding Judge Ladd Wiles made short work of the county’s arguments in defense of its gun “sanctuary” ordinance on Friday, stating the ordinance clearly defies multiple state laws.

 “The ordinance is declared void in its entirety,” Wiles told county attorneys and a courtroom filled with observers, including County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer.

 Wiles was presiding over a hearing in a lawsuit brought by the state against the county, alleging the county is overstepping its role and breaking state law. The state had asked the judge to rule in its favor summarily, without taking the issue to trial, while the county asked to have the lawsuit thrown out. Wiles ruled in favor of the state, saying the violations are clear.

“I’m telling you, it’s unconstitutional,” Wiles said. He said his evaluation does not constitute a judgment on whether Senate Bill 554, which county commissioners Mary Starrett and Lindsay Berschauer were trying to circumvent with the ordinance, is constitutional.

“That’s for the courts to decide,” Wiles said. “The courts decide what’s constitutional, not the commissioners. It’s basic separation of powers.”

Protesters demonstrating outside broke into cheers when they heard the verdict from observers who had been inside.

The county will have the option of appealing the verdict, and attorney Tyler Smith appeared to be trying to preserve his option to appeal, taking issue with Wiles’ ruling, and asking for further clarification on how the ordinance violates state law, after Wiles read both out loud.

Smith argued that the ordinance does not regulate firearms themselves, but rather the actions of county employees, but Wiles read from the ordinance itself, which states that all “local, state and federal laws” enacted after February 2021 that regulate firearms or ammunition “are specifically rejected by this county and shall not be enforced … and shall be treated as if they are null, void and of no effect.”

“It does regulate firearms … it invalidates state regulations,” Wiles said. “I’m not going out on any limbs here; that’s in the ordinance.”

He said the intent of the state law, which reserves all gun and ammunition regulations exclusively to the authority of the state Legislature, is to “prevent safe havens for outlaws.”

Wiles said the county commissioners have no standing to bar the Sheriff and District Attorney from upholding state law. “That sort of oversteps what the commissioners’ role is,” he said.

Smith argued the ordinance doesn’t restrict either Sheriff or District Attorney, because it allows them to write exemptions for themselves, but Wiles pointed out that when Smith read the provision out loud, he omitted the final clause, which states that their authority must still be exercised “consistent with the legislative directives of this ordinance” — which bans enforcement.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Wiles said. “The exemption doesn’t really exist.”

Attorneys for the state also pointed out that the state Tort Claims Act bars counties from being able to make their own employees personally liable for actions taken as part of their jobs. Smith argued the court should wait and see the arguments produced by individual lawsuits. Wiles did not comment on the issue, simply stating that “The conflict with the Tort Claims Act is apparent on its face.”

For more details, see Tuesday’s edition of the News-Register.



Well good, were all about the constitution again. Maybe someone can bring Oregon's illegal immigration sanctuary law before the judge while he's on a roll.

ORS 181A.820
Enforcement of federal immigration laws

(1)No law enforcement agency of the State of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state shall use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.


If you don’t like state law, run for a legislative position to make a change. Clearly, county commissioners don’t have that authority.
This litigation is a monumental waste of county tax dollars and will continue when Mr Smith sends the county his bill for the appeal that he will surely file ( and lose) with two of the commissioners blessings.

Joel R

We finally agree on something Tag!! (It's been a long time).
This is a total waste. The 2nd amendment keeps us well protected and makes this absolutely unnecessary. I get that it's a protest of the way Kate Brown and her left coast governor buddies like to pretend that they can pick and choose what federal laws they want to obey. But this isn't the way to draw attention to it. Too expensive and wasteful and frankly makes the authors of it come off as being as unhinged as the left coast governors.
Better to protest the old fashioned way.... create a sign and stand on the corner by the library. Or just move to Idaho or Texas like so many other conservative people are doing.


How much have we paid Tyler Smith thus far to defend Starrett and Berschauer's vanity ordinance? Maybe Mary and Lindsey should pay the county back for the money they've wasted on this.


Finally, some good news! Thank you, Judge Wiles!


No surprise here. Clearly Starrett and Berschauer are violating their oath of office by attempting to circumvent (in other words not obey) the laws and constitution of the State of Oregon. Why we elect these people is beyond me. They have no business being elected officials.


We elect these people because more than 50% of the electorate decided not to vote.


More wasted time, resources, and tax payer dollars. Also lost opportunity to be addressing the issues that need attention at the County like personnel relations. No leadership, just special interest funded initiatives.


no ordnance ordinance?


I read in the newspaper copy of the story today a quote from Berschauer, "Judge Wiles showed up with his mind set and offered statements laced with political undertones and commentary". Lindsay showing her immaturity again. Slams the Court, the Judge, and the law when she doesn't agree. Someone with a 3rd grade education or better could look at the facts of this case and conclude that it was unconstitutional. Berschauer and Starrett are constantly pounding on the constitution drum, yet when it doesn't agree with what they want (or what their special interest donors want) then it must have "political undertones". The circus continues......


I do agree with some of the comments. I can't seem to grasp the blinders that people wear when it comes to the state of Oregon statutes that ignore federal immigration laws and forbid local law enforcement (state in this example) from assisting federal law enforcement.

And the same tired 50% of the electorate... its the same in every election, people register and don't vote. it seems to me that the more the voters turn out, the more they vote for the commissioners in question, see the recent recall.

for the comment regarding my future employment in state legislature, I've listened to so many people attack, not only on policy, but personally, the two female county commissioners, if you don't like the job they are doing run for a commissioner position and do something about it.

I'll even go along with commissioners paying back the legal costs of the failed case. as long as we can go back and charge previous commissioner for getting us involved in the trail boondoggle that cost the county a million dollars, send a bill to current and prior city politicians for the two million budget deficit the city is currently in, and for that matter I'd like to fully audit PERS and see who the hell got us into that 23.4 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities. hopefully that would be something we could all agree on, but I doubt it.


But....I really wanted to install that 50-cal on my rooftop. Sad emoji.

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