Gun violence puts city, state laws in crosshairs

JIM REDDEN (The Portland Tribune) | March 31, 2011

The day after four people were wounded in a suspected Northeast Portland gang-related shooting, gun-control advocates rallied at City Hall.

Speakers at the March 21 event included Mayor Sam Adams, religious leaders and relatives of people killed by guns. They spoke passionately about the emotional and societal toll of shootings, including suicides.

“It is too easy for people to get guns. We’re not safe as citizens,” said Teressa Railford, whose nephew, Andre Payton, was killed in another gang-related shooting last September.

The March 20 incident was the fourth suspected gang-related shooting in eight days. All of those shootings followed another incident in which Portland police officer Parik Singh was shot during a routine welfare check early in the month. Singh is recovering after being critically wounded by a suicidal man.

When it came to offering solutions, the speakers last week only urged support for a bill pending in Congress to increase federally required background checks on gun buyers – a bill that has virtually no chance of passing because of the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The truth is, options for local gun-control advocates such as Adams are severely limited these days. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess firearms, striking down broad municipal restrictions on gun ownership twice in the past three years. Oregon law also prevents cities and counties from regulating the sale of firearms.

So any new proposals must be very narrowly tailored. After a rash of gang-related shootings last summer, Adams persuaded the City Council in December to adopt a series of carefully crafted gun-control measures. Among other things, they establish three “hot spot” zones in the city where police can exclude people convicted of firearms charges.

But the city attorney’s office is still trying to figure out how to enforce the exclusions in a way that will withstand a potential court challenge. In any case, the rules would not have prevented any of the March shootings. All of them took place outside of the three exclusion zones.

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