The Ashland City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed gun regulations on March 18.
Several councilors said they especially want to hear input about a proposed regulation that City Attorney Dave Lohman has identified as most legally defensible.
That proposed regulation would ban the carrying of loaded weapons in public places.
Portland's ban on carrying loaded weapons in public was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court, although it could still be challenged in federal court, Lohman said.
A group called Citizens for a Safe Ashland has proposed bans on carrying loaded weapons in public as well as clips or magazines loaded with ammunition. The group also wants to require gun owners to store their weapons in a way that prevents minors from reaching those guns without permission.
Councilor Carol Voisin, who has voiced support for the Citizens for a Safe Ashland proposals, said she wants people to be able to speak about all options for gun regulations at the public hearing.
Councilor Pam Marsh said anyone can give opinions about a range of gun regulations at the public hearing.
"But it's only fair to give an indication of what piece of it we may pursue," Marsh said.
She said if the council does take any action, it would be most likely to pursue a regulation that has the best chance of withstanding a lawsuit.
Lohman has warned that Ashland attorney fees to defend a gun regulation lawsuit filed locally in Circuit Court could surpass $150,000.
Legal costs would grow if the case continued to the Oregon Court of Appeals, the Oregon Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.
Outside forces, including gun rights groups, would probably join the fray, he said.
If Ashland lost the fight, it could be ordered to pay the other side's attorney fees, Lohman said.
Voisin said councilors should not let themselves be intimidated by the prospect of litigation when deciding whether to adopt gun regulations.
Lohman has warned councilors that state law prevents Ashland from adopting regulations on ammunition and the storage of guns.
Several councilors were cautious about embroiling Ashland in an expensive legal fight.
Councilor Mike Morris said a previous council overstepped its bounds in trying to interfere with the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.
Ashland had to pay approximately $400,000 in settlement costs and legal fees after a judged ruled the city had improperly trying to interfere with proposed ski area expansion plans in 2006.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse said no matter how many residents say they favor the gun regulations, it would not be responsible to adopt regulations that may not be legal and that invite litigation.
Councilor Dennis Slattery said he does care about protecting children, but the community must have laws that stand on solid legal ground.
Prior to the March 18 meeting, the city will post information on its website about a range of gun regulation options. Various options include:
- Council adoption of a ban on carrying loaded weapons in public or referring that proposal to voters.
- Council adoption of other proposed gun regulations or referring those regulations to voters.
- Asking the Oregon Legislature to allow local regulations on gun storage and ammunition.
- Adopting or referring to voters mixed options, such as a ban on carrying loaded weapons in public plus asking the Oregon Legislature to allow local regulations on gun storage and ammunition.
- Adopting a declaration that Ashland does not welcome people carrying loaded weapons in public or referring the declaration to voters.
- Taking no action.
The March 18 public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
People who carry guns into the public building — whether carried openly or concealed — must show that they have a concealed weapons permit, according to the Ashland Police Department. Some gun rights advocates brought guns inside the building during a Feb. 3 council study session about gun regulations.
Prior to a study session earlier this week, the city put up signs letting gun carriers know they must have concealed weapons permits to enter the public building. Extra police were on hand to enforce the law.
To read future city posts about gun regulation options and the March 18 public hearing, visit http://ashland.or.us.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.