The Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance movement has come to Umatilla County.

Gun rights advocates are collecting signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot that would restrict Umatilla County from using any resources to enforce state or federal laws that will “infringe on the right of the People to keep and bear arms.” The initiative designates the county sheriff as the authority to decide which state or federal laws meet the definition of unconstitutionally infringing on those rights.

Umatilla County’s chief petitioners are Jesse Bonifer of Athena and Kevin Pettey of Hermiston, but Bonifer said similar efforts to pass an ordinance with matching language are taking place in counties around the state. Four — Wallowa, Coos, Curry and Wheeler counties — already have passed a Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance through their county board of commissioners or, in Coos County’s case, via ballot initiative.

“This is a firewall for anyone coming into Umatilla County to take our guns,” Bonifer said.

The ballot initiative — gathering signatures under the official title “Umatilla County Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance” — is a response to statewide initiatives that would restrict firearm ownership, Bonifer said. He referenced current efforts to gather signatures for IP 43, which aims to ban certain guns defined by the measure as “assault weapons” and magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and said people in rural Oregon were tired of people in Portland or Salem trying to take away their constitutional rights.

“We should be able to pack anything, any time or own any type of weapon,” he said.

The language of the ordinance cites several parts of the U.S. Constitution, including the well-known Second Amendment and the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights in the Constitution should not be used to deny other rights not specifically listed. It then states that the “Umatilla County Government shall not authorize or appropriate governmental funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right of the People to keep and bear arms” and that it is the duty of the Umatilla County Sheriff to determine whether any laws relating to firearms, ammunition or accessories were enforceable in their jurisdiction.

The Umatilla County initiative is matched by identical initiatives for other counties, in part of a movement coordinated by Rob Taylor of Coos County. Since the gun rights/gun control battle has reached a fever pitch in recent months, Taylor said he has gotten a flood of calls from people in many counties asking for help in passing their own Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance. He said so far this year people in 18 counties have submitted paperwork to their county elections office and have been cleared to start gathering signatures in 12, including Umatilla County, with legal help from the Committee to Preserve the Second Amendment, of which Taylor is chair.

“I didn’t realize how far it would go,” he said.

Opponents of such initiatives question the legality of a county ordinance to supersede state and federal law, but Taylor said it doesn’t overrule that law so much as defunds it and de-prioritizes enforcement. Sheriffs make decisions all the time about what to prioritize, he said.

“This really isn’t giving them any authority, it’s just using the discretionary authority they already have,” he said.

In fact, Taylor said language in the initiative mirrors language in Oregon’s “sanctuary state” law directing that state and local law enforcement resources and personnel should not be used to enforce federal immigration laws.

“They’re already doing it,” he said. “Why not do it for guns, if they can do it for illegal immigrants?”

He also pointed to legalization of marijuana, which law enforcement is not arresting people for use of despite it still being illegal on a federal level.

In Umatilla County, Bonifer said people are collecting signatures at various local gun shops, including Garner’s Sporting Goods and Blagg Rifles in Pendleton and Columbia Outdoors and Smitty’s Outpost in Hermiston, and at Advanced Tarps and Covers in Athena. He said they need 1,200 registered Umatilla County voters’ signatures and hope to receive them by June 29 to get everything in time for the November ballot.

“The people of Oregon are finally standing up and speaking,” he said.


Contact Jade McDowell at or 541-564-4536.

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