By editorial board • 

Court ruling makes it clear: Gun sanctuary a pipe dream

In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, which Donald Trump began branding as fraudulent months in advance, Trump forces filed 63 legal challenges in state and federal courts.

Trump prevailed on one narrow and inconsequential point in one suit, brought in Pennsylvania, but even that victory was overturned on appeal. The other 62 were dismissed or dropped for lack of evidence, typically in summary fashion. 

Rejections were handed down by an array of judges, including several appointed by Trump himself. Repeatedly, the Trump challenges were found frivolous, unfounded and lacking in legal merit.

Trump lost by a collective 311,257 votes in the six battleground states. An exhaustive independent study turned up only 475 potentially fraudulent ballots in those states, and they were as commonly cast by Republicans as Democrats. 

Yamhill County seems to have plunged down the same Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole with its equally unsupported and unsupportable Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance. When it got its day in court last week, that ordinance was rejected resoundingly in a summary judgment handed down by Presiding Yamhill County Circuit Judge Ladd Wiles.

The ordinance purports to invalidate all local, state and federal gun regulations enacted since February 2021, and subject county officials to citizen lawsuits in response to any enforcement efforts.

But state law makes gun regulation the exclusive province of the Legislature, and bars counties from making employees personally liable for action taken on the job. That led Wiles to declare the ordinance “void in its entirety.”

Wiles’ decision confirmed fears expressed early on by the lawyer heading up the county’s own legal team, Christian Boenisch. He warned commissioners the ordinance appeared to pre-empt state gun laws in contravention of state statute and risked landing the county on the losing end of a state Department of Justice lawsuit.

Boenisch’s reservations forced Commissioners Lindsay Berschauer and Mary Starrett to retain Tyler Smith, who shares their hard-right political and ideological orientation, as outside counsel. And therein lies the key difference between the frivolous Trump sideshow and equally frivolous Bershauer/Starrett sideshow:

Trump tapped his legion of true believers to fund his legal sleight of hand. The taxpayers were on the hook for the millions run up by government lawyers opposing the challenges, but not the millions run up by the private lawyers retained by the aggrieved ex-president.

Here, the taxpayers are picking up the tab on both sides.

Bershauer and Starrett could have dipped into their own pockets, sought funding from their many well-heeled ideological allies, or persuaded their ideologically driven counsel to press the case pro bono. But they have covered the $14,000 run up so far out of tax-fed county coffers.

In other words, they are funding their personal gun rights crusade on our dime. And enough is enough.

As Wiles made clear in his emphatic decision, the county’s Second Amendment Sanctuary doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Taking it forward into Oregon’s appellate courts is going to accomplish one and only one thing — move thousands more from our pockets into those of Tyler Smith.

We can see what’s in it for trio of leading protagonists, because they have no skin in the game, so nothing to lose. We can’t see what’s it in for the rest of us, regardless of political or ideological persuasion.

Pursuing this further amounts to throwing good money after bad, and it’s our tax money they’re using. It isn’t Monopoly money.



I bet if you added up all the legal expenses to include the drafting of the ordinance, it will add up to a lot more than $14,000 of wasted tax money.

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