Top Menu



An Oregon Appeals Court decision has found that your car is now considered a “public place.” That means that possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle may be considered a crime if the locality in which you are traveling has a ban on open loaded carry.

This ruling is bizarre in light of how Oregon law defines “public place.” ORS 161.015 defines public place this way:

(10) “Public place” means a place to which the general public has access and includes, but is not limited to, hallways, lobbies and other parts of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence, and highways, streets, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and premises used in connection with public passenger transportation.

The case, Bryan Ward VS State of Oregon, dealt with an arrest, by a Portland Police officer, of a person who had an unconcealed handgun in his car.

It has always been our position that open carry in a vehicle was clearly protected by Oregon law. ORS 166.250 clearly states that except for CHL holders, it is concealed carry in a vehicle that is prohibited. It further states that the prohibition against concealed, loaded carry in a vehicle does not apply to”a recreational vessel or recreational vehicle while used, for whatever period of time, as residential quarters.”

The Appeals Court decision turns on its head Oregon’s preemption statute which allows only the state legislature to regulate possession of firearms, except for loaded carry in public places. If your car is now considered a “public place” will a law enforcement officer need a warrant to search it?

The Court concludes “When read together, ORS 166.173 and 161.015(1) clearly allow local governments to regulate the possession of loaded firearms on their streets and highways.”

But ORS 166.173 states”166.173 Authority of city or county to regulate possession of loaded firearms in public places. (1) A city or county may adopt ordinances to regulate, restrict or prohibit the possession of loaded firearms in public places as defined in ORS 161.015.” and 161.015, as noted above, clearly defines a “public place” as a place to which the general public has access. ” It is not ambiguous in any way.

The Court also reaches conclusions that seem to have no bearing on this case at all. In their decision, they state the following :

Moreover, ORS 166.173(2)(c)–which exempts persons licensed to carry concealed weapons from local loaded firearms regulations–demonstrates that the legislature anticipated situations in which persons may possess concealed, loaded firearms in a public place. The legislature chose to exempt such persons from local regulations based on their possession of a certain type of permit, despite the fact that a concealed firearm, although otherwise in a “public place,” is not kept in a place to which the “general public has access.”

But this case is not about concealed handguns. CHL holders are exempt from many restrictions that non-license holders are subject to, and the legislature made very specific rules about vehicles and firearms possession which clearly allow open carry without a license while in a car. If a car is a “public place” then why even have laws specifically dealing with possession in a vehicle when the limits on carrying in “public places” would apply  to cars anyway?

Oregon’s preemption law was created specifically to prevent a person from inadvertently breaking the law as he moved around the state. This ruling is a major setback for gun rights in Oregon and puts many people at risk simply by crossing into a town or city that has onerous and unposted rules. OFF is considering what further legal action can be taken, and in the meantime warns gun owners to be very careful when traveling in Oregon.