The 2017 Eastern Oregon Forum will open with a bang.

“Gun Facts, Regulations, and the Second Amendment” opens the annual discussion series Tuesday at Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton. Navigating the fraught legal and political waters falls to three panelists: Stuart Roberts, long-serving Pendleton police chief; Lou Jaffe, board member of the nonprofit Gun Owners For Responsible Ownership; and Jerod Broadfoot, former hunting lobbyist and co-founder of the Oregon Outdoor Council.

The numbers vary depending on the source, but between 270 and 310 million guns are in private hands in the United States, giving the nation the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. The American Journal of Medicine in March 2016 published a study showing the firearm death rate in the United States was 10 times higher than other industrialized nations.

Roberts said he would speak about firearm training for police, prevailing case law on police use of deadly force, and Oregon gun laws in general, such as for carrying and transporting guns. He said he believes there needs to be a certain amount of gun regulation and that someone qualified to carry a concealed weapon may not be qualified to use a gun in a high-stress situation.

Still, he said, he plans to stay in the middle of the road when it comes to gun politics.

“For me, it’s a tool,” Roberts said. “And there are certain skill sets that go along with that, and a tremendous responsibility.”

Lou Jaffe is a retired business executive and Vietnam veteran. He said while he is not a gun owner, he knows guns and fired every kind the infantry had.

Jaffe headed up the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation, which created the state’s World War II memorial in 2014. The effort gave him some statewide visibility, he said, which he put to use working to reduce gun violence. He and five others now make up the board for Gun Owners For Responsible Ownership,

“We’re not about taking people’s guns away,” he said. “We are about ensuring responsible ownership.”

Jaffe said most of the organization’s work has been “preaching to the choir” in the Portland-metro area, so Eastern Oregon presents the opportunity to get outside that bubble and help the organization gain more traction.

“That’s why I’m looking forward to coming to Pendleton,” he said.

Jaffe said that during Tuesday’s forum he will stress that no solution to gun violence is going to come from the “sanctimonious” left or “obstructionists” on the right.

Broadfoot, an avid hunter and shooter, said he would address why the Second Amendment is as relevant today as at the end of the 18th century and would argue against the need for stricter regulations and background checks.

“The facts are more gun laws don’t stop criminals from breaking the law,” Broadfoot said.

He also said he would like to talk about federal legislation that would remove restrictions on owning suppressors or silencers, the device that fits on the end of a gun barrel to reduce the noise of a shot. Republican Reps. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and John Carter of Texas on Monday introduced the “Hearing Protection Act,” which would end the $200 federal tax and months-long wait to own a suppressor with the National Instant Criminal Background Check. Broadfoot called the proposal a good idea because it eliminates red tape and saves a shooter’s hearing whether on the range or in the forest.

Each panelist will have up to 15 minutes to speak, then moderator David Nelson, former state senator, will open the discussion to questions from the audience.

The Eastern Oregon Forum is Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, in the Science and Technology Building, room 200. The forum is open to the public and tickets are $6 at the door but free for students. You can purchase a $20 membership for admission to all four forums (the others are on Feb. 21, March 21 and April 18).

The Eastern Oregon Forum is a collaborative effort between Blue Mountain Community College, the InterMountain Education Service District, the East Oregonian, American Association of University Women and Harriet Isom, a former United States ambassador. The forum is part of BMCC’s annual Arts and Culture Festival.

For more information on the forum, contact Karen Parker at 541-966-3177 at the education service district.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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