Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘Preemption of Local Laws in Oregon.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 25 February
Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Oregon
The Oregon Legislature has specifically preempted certain areas of firearms regulation. Oregon Revised Statutes § 166.170 states:
(1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly.
(2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void.
Local jurisdictions do have authority to enact the following specific firearm-related regulations:
- Cities have the power to regulate, restrict or prohibit the discharge of firearms within the city's boundaries, provided the ordinances do not apply to or affect, inter alia, a person discharging a firearm in the lawful defense of person or property, or on a public or private shooting range, shooting gallery or other area designed and built for the purpose of target shooting1;
- Cities may also regulate the purchase of used firearms by pawnshops and secondhand stores; and
- Cities and counties may adopt ordinances regulating, restricting or prohibiting the possession of loaded firearms in public places, provided the ordinances do not apply to or affect, inter alia, a law enforcement officer or member of the military in the performance of official duties, a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun, or a person authorized to possess a loaded firearm while in or on a public building or court facility.
A city, county or other municipal corporation or district may not, however, adopt ordinances that regulate, restrict or prohibit the possession or sale of firearms in a public building that is rented or leased to a person during the term of the lease.
Oregon counties also have authority to adopt ordinances that regulate, restrict or prohibit the discharge of firearms within their boundaries, provided the ordinances do not apply to or affect a person discharging a firearm:
- In the lawful defense of person or property;
- In the course of lawful hunting;
- As a landowner or guest of a landowner, when the discharge will not endanger adjacent persons or property;
- On a public or private shooting range, shooting gallery or other area designed and built for the purpose of target shooting;
- In the course of target shooting on public land that is not inside an urban growth boundary or the boundary of a city, if the discharge will not endanger persons or property; or
- Who is an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture discharging a firearm in the course of the lawful taking of wildlife, within the scope of his or her employment.
The preemption provisions in sections 166.170 and 166.171 do not affect county ordinances regulating the discharge of firearms in effect on November 2, 1995. Ordinances regulating discharge on a shooting range, shooting gallery, or other target shooting area designed for such purpose are subject to sections 166.170 and 166.171. In addition, section 197.770(1) states that any "firearms training facility in existence on September 9, 1995, shall be allowed to continue operating until such time as the facility is not longer used as a firearms training facility." A "firearms training facility" is an indoor or outdoor facility that provides training courses and issues certifications required for:
1) law enforcement personnel;
2) State Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel; or
3) nationally recognized programs that promote shooting matches, target shooting and safety.
Any local government or special district ordinance or regulation in effect in 1996 or subsequently adopted that makes a shooting range a nuisance or trespass or provides for its abatement as a nuisance or trespass is invalid with respect to the shooting range. For information on statutes that provide shooting ranges with immunity from lawsuits, see the Oregon Immunity Statutes section.
In Langlotz v. Noelle, 39 P.3d 271 (Or. Ct. App. 2002), the Court of Appeals of Oregon upheld a Multnomah County background check form used to apply for a concealed handgun license that required more detailed information from applicants than state law mandates. The plaintiff had been denied a concealed handgun permit because he refused to answer certain questions on the application form. The plaintiff challenged the sheriff's form on several grounds, including that the sheriff, in adding questions to the application form that are not expressly mentioned in section 166.291 (Oregon's concealed handgun licensing statute), had acted contrary to section 166.170(1) by regulating firearms beyond what the state permitted. In allowing county sheriffs to require more detailed information on concealed weapons permit application forms than provided for under state law, the court stated that "[i]n enacting the statute that is the subject of this case, [Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.291], the legislature has 'expressly authorized' [the county sheriff] to regulate the possession and transportation of concealed firearms."
In Starrett v. Portland, 102 P.3d 728 (Or. Ct. App. 2004), the Court of Appeals of Oregon held that sections 166.170 and 166.173 do not preclude a city from leasing public property to a private party on terms that allow the private party to prohibit concealed handguns on the leased property. The court reasoned that an ordinance leasing public property to a private party is not an exercise of governmental regulation, and is therefore not subject to sections 166.170 and 166.173.
In Oregon State Shooting Ass'n v. Multnomah County, 858 P.2d 1315 (Or. Ct. App. 1993), the Court of Appeals of Oregon reviewed preemption challenges to ordinances prohibiting possession of assault weapons for sale at the Multnomah County Exposition Center, and requiring a fee for background checks on all firearm purchases. The court invalidated the provision prohibiting the possession of an assault weapon for purposes of sale in the County Exposition Center, finding that the provision violated section 166.245 (a now-repealed statute similar to current section 166.173, but providing that counties and other political subdivisions may regulate the possession of loaded or unloaded firearms and ammunition in a public place). The court held that section 166.245 permitted local regulation of the possession, but not the sale, of firearms and ammunition.
As to the imposition of fees for background checks in the ordinances, the court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the fees regulated the sale of firearms and were preempted by section 166.245. The court found that the fees under both ordinances were not preempted by state law, as they compensated individuals who completed background checks for prospective firearms purchasers.
In Doe v. Medford Sch. Dist., 549C, 221 P.3d 787, 791 (Or. Ct. App. 2009), the Court of Appeals of Oregon rejected a preemption challenge to a school district policy that prohibits its employees from possessing firearms on school district property or at school-sponsored events. An employee of the school district, who sought to possess a gun while teaching, argued that Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.170(1) preempted the district policy. While the appellate court disagreed with the trial court's conclusion that Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.170(1) did not have preemptive effect, it agreed with the trial court's ruling that the policy did not violate the statute because "the school district's internal employment policy does not represent the sort of 'authority to regulate' firearms that the statute preempts."
In State v. Ward, 198 P.3d 443 (Or. Ct. App. 2008), the Court of Appeals of Oregon rejected a preemption challenge to a Portland ordinance that regulates the possession of loaded firearms on streets and highways, even if the gun was kept in a place to which the general public had no access. The defendant challenged his conviction for possession of a loaded firearm in a public place, arguing that Or. Rev. Stat. § 166.173 restricts local governments from prohibiting the carrying of a loaded firearm within a car on a public street. The appellate court concluded that nothing in the statute supported defendant's contention that a loaded firearm, when carried in a public place, was outside the scope of local regulation merely because it was kept in a place to which the general public lacked access.
Finally, in Portland v. Lodi, 782 P.2d 415 (Or. 1989), the Supreme Court of Oregon held that an ordinance prohibiting the carrying of a deadly weapon in a concealed manner, and defining deadly weapon to include pocket knifes, was preempted by state law. While state law also prohibits the carrying of a deadly weapon in a concealed manner, it had recently been amended to exclude pocket knifes. This legislative decision displaced the city's ordinance…
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