We are often asked where persons with Oregon concealed handgun licenses MAY NOT have their firearms, You would think this would be an easy question to answer, after all the law is pretty clear isn’t it? Well yes it is. The problem is getting anyone to obey it.
Let’s start with schools. CHL holders are allowed in all public schools from K through college. But an awful lot of schools have not done their homework. (And we wonder why Johnny can’t read.)
For example, here’s a photo (right) from the front door of the Chief Joseph Elementary School in Portland.The sign says all weapons are prohibited. It goes on to warn “This includes weapons carried under a concealed weapons (sic)permit.” It warns potential transgressors that they are “subject to arrest.”
Putting aside for a moment that Oregon does not issue “concealed weapons permits,” this school just like every other public school in the state, has NO authority to forbid a person with a concealed handgun license from entering school property. While both Oregon and Federal law forbid people from being on school property with firearms, concealed handgun license holders are exempt from both laws. Oregon statute 166.370 forbids firearms in “public buildings” which schools are, but subsection B says“this section does not apply to:… (d) A person who is licensed under ORS 166.291 and 166.292 to carry a concealed handgun.” As we have said elsewhere, if you have a chl you may carry unto public school property.
Of course, it’s not only schools that like to make up their own rules. Here is a photo of the front door of the Bend Police Department.The sign says “No Firearms With Or Without A Permit.”It also says “All persons and property subject to search.” As you can imagine, we were a bit surprised to learn that the 4th amendment had been suspended in Bend. You may remember that relic of the past. It says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
We contacted the Bend Chief of Police in March of 2007. At the time, the Chief was Andy Jordon. (He is no longer in that position). We suggested that perhaps he did not have the authority to search people simply because they entered a building that their tax dollars had paid for. He had an interesting reply. It is reproduced here, in its entirety.
I have reviewed ORS 166.370 as did our City Attorney. We are both in agreement that you are correct regarding this particular statute and we will be removing the language posted at the entrance to our police facility. We also believe that as the person in control of the police facility, I do have the authority to prevent dangerous weapons of any type to be brought into our facility. We have temporary holding facilities for prisoners, we are a safe haven for victims of crime and therefore we need to control dangerous weapons entering our facility. There is no statutory mandate for the public to access our facility and therefore we do have control of who enters our facility and specifically, we can ban dangerous weapons from our facility. Anyone entering our facility with a dangerous weapon would be subject to arrest under trespassing statutes.
The current language at our entrance will be removed but we will continue to ban firearms and other dangerous weapons.
If you have any further concerns please contact me or Bend City Attorney James Forbes at 541-382-3917.
Andy Jordan, Chief of Police
Now that is a pretty fascinating position. Since you have no “statutory mandate” to visit the police department, the (former) chief believes he can make up a rule that no Oregon law gives him authority to create. As you can imagine, we followed up with the Chief and questioned his right to continue to bar license holders in spite of the clear language of Oregon law, which allows license holders in public buildings with firearms. (Once again ORS 166.370) There is no question that a police headquarters is a “public building” under Oregon law. The Chief responded in a way which should chill anyone who thinks they still have rights. Here’s what he said: “Regarding access to our facility, I was trying to say that we do not have to open our building to the public and therefore, we can prevent entrance to anyone.” He continued : ” Our authority, we believe, is the trespass statute. We would under normal circumstances, request an armed subject(if we know) to leave the building and not return if they are armed. If they refused to leave or returned with a weapon, after being advised they could not possess a weapon, then they would be subject to arrest. So that you are aware, we have used the trespass statute to ban people from our building when they have caused disturbances and this is legal. The gun issue is no different in our eyes.”
Here is a Chief of Police, comparing persons with concealed handgun licenses to persons who “create disturbances.”
It is not clear if the new Chief of Police is currently obeying the law or if the signs have been changed. If you know, or have a photo, please let us know.
But there are plenty of other places where the law is broken by people who are sworn to uphold it.
Here is a photo of the Deschutes County Commissioners Building. It was taken in 2007 and since then, they have promised to remove the sign. We have no confirmation that they did. But it is startling that they actually posted a sign saying that something that is legal is a “felony.”
The Hillsboro Civic Center has a similar sign posted. Notice that no exemption is made for license holders. Efforts to communicate with the Civic Center to determine if their intention is to bar license holders was met with a bureaucratic run around that would have made the Cold War Kremlin proud.Once again, there is no lawful authority to ban license holders from this building.
Another place where you are likely to find signs banning your presence is your local Municipal Court. While not all Municipal Courts ban licensed carry, most of the ones we checked with do. However, the legality of these prohibitions is questionable at best. ORS. 166.370 outlaws concealed carry in “court facilities”. However ORS 166. 360 defines what a “court facility” is. Let’s take a look. Subsection 2 of the law says the following: “Court facility” means a courthouse or that portion of any other building occupied by a circuit court, the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court or the Oregon Tax Court or occupied by personnel related to the operations of those courts, or in which activities related to the operations of those courts take place.” Nowhere does it include “Municipal Courts.” You would think if the legislature went to such great lengths to define “court facilities” it did NOT intend to include a place where you are most likely going to pay a parking ticket. But, again most courts have taken it upon themselves to rewrite the law. A truly tortured explanation, or maybe justification, for this can be seen in this letter from a Municipal Judge in Canby. But if you want a more rational response, read the opinion of the people who actually wrote the law.
Ultimately, every tinhorn bureaucrat will try to impose his will in violation of the law. You have to know the truth and you have to be willing to stand up to these people. But remember, just because you are obeying the law does not mean you won’t be arrested. Public buildings in Oregon are NOT off limits to license holders, except for court rooms as defined above.
And anyone who tells you differently, or posts a sign that says anything to that effect is lying. Period.
On July 9th 2009, a judge in Clackamas County ruled that Municipal court judges can make up pretty much whatever rule they want. So, in spite of the clear language of the law, Municipal Courts can prevent you from having self defense tools in their hallowed and safe chambers. *In 2015 the Oregon Legislature added Municipal and Justice Courts to the “off limits” list if the judge said so. Since this was already the law, you have to wonder what they accomplished.
If you know of other posted public buildings drop us a line and a photo for inclusion.