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The Right to Bear Arms

Oregon Constitution Article I, Section 27 states, “The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves, and the State, but the Military shall be kept in strict subordination to the civil power”

What does this mean? Who does it apply to? What ‘arms’ are covered?

Art. 1, Sec. 27 of the Oregon Constitution is worded differently than the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which allows for the rights and privileges to also be different (potentially). Article I, Section 27, was taken verbatim from the Indiana Constitution of 1851. The, “suggested purpose is the deterrence of government from oppressing unarmed segments of the population.” State v. Kessler, 289 Or 359 (1980). The term “arms” as used by the drafters of the constitutions probably was intended to include those weapons used by settlers for both personal and military defense. Id. “Defense of themselves” has also been said to include an individual's right to bear arms to protect his or her person and home.

Article I, Sec. 27 is enshrined into Oregon’s Constitution, therefore “[T]he legislature's authority to restrict the bearing of arms is [not] so broad as to be unlimited. Rather, any restriction must satisfy the purpose of that authority in the face of Article I, section 27: the protection of public safety.” Simply put, any and all laws that conflict with the authority of the Oregon Constitution are overbroad, and therefore void. All laws regulating one’s right to defense of self and home must be weighed against the protections of Art. I, Sec. 27.

The Right to Bear Arms is not an unfettered right as interpreted by the Oregon Courts. Not all ‘arms’ are included, nor are all people allowed to have all ‘arms’. For example, felons are barred from firearms (Hirsch/Friend, 338 Or 662 (2005)), certain knives/weapons are also prohibited (ORS 166.270). A felon’s rights to possess firearms can be restored through various methods including but limited to, Set Aside (ORS 137.225), Gun Right Restoration (ORS 166.274), and Reduction to Misdemeanors (ORS 161.705).

Art. I, Sec. 27 is not absolute, but offers great protections for individuals possessing firearms in defense of themselves and their homes. This right is essential to a free state.

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