The top law-enforcement officers in the counties comprising Sisters Country have issued statements affirming civilian gun rights and opposing Oregon Initiative Petition 43.

Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson posted a statement last week on the sheriff's office Facebook page stating that "I support and defend the Second Amendment and oppose IP 43." Nelson affirmed the importance of citizens having the means to defend themselves, noting that "Deputies of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office will always respond to assist and protect the citizens we serve, but you must be prepared to appropriately take care of you and your family until we can get there."

Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins issued a similar statement on Facebook earlier in the month.

The petitioners for IP 43 are seeking signatures to place the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. The measure would require current gun-owners to do one of the following with identified semi-automatic firearms and/or "high-capacity" magazines: register them with the state, sell them to a registered dealer, remove them from the State, render them inoperable or surrender them to law enforcement. Failure to comply would constitute a Class B felony. The initiative also restricts where and how the firearms or magazines could be carried or used.

IP 43 defines an "assault weapon" as semi-automatic rifles and pistols with a detachable magazine and one of several modifications, semi-automatic shotguns with grip and stock modifications and semi-automatic rifles under 30 inches in length.

The petitioners have enough sponsorship signatures to draft a ballot title.

"We know that support for an assault-weapon ban has been growing since Sandy Hook," said Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon. "The Legislature has had five years to act on this."

Opinion on an "assault-rifle" ban is sharply divided in Sisters Country (see Letters to the Editor, starting on page 2). Proponents argue that firearms such as those addressed in the initiative do not belong in civilian hands.

In his statement, Sheriff Nelson said, "Our office has issued over 14,000 concealed handgun licenses and I firmly believe that every responsible and accountable law-abiding citizen who wants to legally own a firearm should do so. Firearms have their lawful place in society and are an important tool in personal protection and ensuring public safety in our county."

He further stated, "I understand the concerns of school violence across the country and the role law enforcement plays. Oregon has a number of laws on the books regarding background checks and age restrictions related to the purchase of a firearm. These laws prohibit the sale of firearms to convicted felons, those convicted of misdemeanor crimes involving violence, those adjudicated as mentally ill, those who have been committed as the result of a Mental Commitment Hearing, those with an active felony warrant, active out of state misdemeanor warrant and those on pretrial release for a felony.

"Our office continues to take all threats seriously, and we appropriately vet them in partnership with our DA's Office, mental health professionals, other law enforcement agencies, our schools, and others in the public safety sector. We immediately respond to, investigate threats of violence or danger, and hold people accountable. We are committed to keeping our children and community safe."

Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said, "These laws, and any law restricting any type of arms, will only make us weaker, making 'good people' law breakers and 'bad people' stronger. Bad people do not care what laws we have. Bad people will always possess and obtain that which they are not suppose(d) to possess!

"Initiative Petition 43 would restrict the sale, production and ownership of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. (I want my constituents, our citizens, to be well-armed and prepared.) I support and defend the constitution."