April 8, 2020 — The Dunes City Council discussed a variety of issues during its last meeting on March 25, including declaring the city a Second Amendment Preservation City as well as declaring a state of emergency regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
However, the council first discussed the goals of Dunes City, which included filing an extension of water right permits which are set to expire in 2021; obtaining and install new security system in and around city hall; finishing and adopting land use codes; issuing regular newsletters; and installing a rough trail on the Rebecca’s Trail property and removing dangerous trees from the right of way.
The council also looked at Dunes City’s strategic plan, which covered a wide variety of issues, including expanding local business.
“There’s so minimal business, is this something we want to encourage?” asked Councilor Alan Montgomery. “And if so, we’re going to have to change the whole zoning and everything in order to give them some place to work.”
Councilor Susan Snow replied, “It’s not like we wanted a whole bunch of businesses in. We want the ones that are here to be able to thrive and do better than they’re doing. It’s encouraging, it’s not opening up.”
However, there are some businesses the council would like to see reopen, particularly in the Westlake area which, at one time, had a bait shop, grocery store and a restaurant.
“My thought with this was, bring that back,” said Dunes City Mayor Bob Forsythe. “What can we do to bring that kind of thing to our community? … That’s the kind of thing I would like to see the community do. Get back to that fishing village concept.”
The council will not take any action on the strategic plan until it is formalized as a resolution for the council.
At that point, the council turned to a resolution making Dunes City a “Second Amendment Preservation City.”
For months, Forsythe had been talking about presenting such a resolution to the council. Two weeks before the meeting, he gave the Dunes City Council copies of the resolution, allowing them time to speak to their constituents. By state law, resolutions only require a first reading before a vote is taken.
The resolution began, “Whereas the second amendment of the United States was ratified Dec. 17, 1791, shortly after the colonists defeated the British Army and ended the rule of King George the Third.”
It went on to quote the amendment in full, and then stated that Dunes City considers the confiscation of legally owned and possessed firearms of any citizen to be unconstitutional.
“And whereas the duly elected officials of Dunes City will not assist in any fashion any local, state or federal agency in the unconstitutional confiscation of firearms from any resident of Dunes City Oregon,” the resolution continued, which then included city staff in the refusal.
“And whereas the people of Dunes City, Ore., hereby oppose the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the rights of the people to keep and bear arms, and would consider such laws to be unconstitutional, and beyond lawful legislation authority.”
The resolution ultimately declared the city to be a Second Amendment Preservation City in the state of Oregon.
After reading the resolution, Forsythe opened the questions to councilors.
“First of all, what is the necessity of this?” asked Councilor Robert Orr.
“The need is primarily symbolic at this point, but it gets us in line as a statement should we get into state legislation around the Second Amendment, as is happening in different states across the United States,” Forsythe replied. “It puts us in a position that forwards our opinion of any of these legislations, should we get into legal conflict.”
At that point, Orr asked about the last “whereas.”
“I’m struggling with that one and recognizing that I come from a little different place than some of the rest of you,” he said. “I'm seeing, for example, legislation that bans assault weapons or something of that sort. Is this saying we oppose any such legislation?”
“Yes it does,” Forsythe replied.
Orr stated that he could not support the resolution as written.
“I have some very strong feelings about this. I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment. I don’t mean to say that. But I do feel that we need further restrictions on some gun laws, and that probably puts me at odds with a lot of people in the community,” Orr continued. “But that is my very strong feeling.”
Forsythe reassured Orr that he understood his point, saying, “That’s what we’re here for. And I suspect we all have various feelings about it. That’s why we write something like this and see where we’re at.”
Councilor Sheldon Meyer asked what would occur if there was ever a national ban on certain types of guns. Forsythe stated that there was already a precedent set with laws against automatic machine guns, but that the term “assault weapon” is used too broadly.
“Most of their legislation doesn’t understand the difference between semi-automatic and automatic,” Forsythe said. “When people in the media refer to an ‘assault weapon,’ they typically refer to something that looks mean, like an M-16. A military M-16 you can switch it to an automatic. You take an AR-15, and it’s a semi-automatic weapon, though it looks similar to an automatic military weapon. I get concerned when people want to make laws but they are unfamiliar with the practices and all those items and what they are. I can’t imagine the normal person, even out here where they hunt and fish and do all these sorts of things, really wanting to have a fully automatic weapon.”
Orr brought up his experiences as a retired schoolteacher and current volunteer for Siuslaw School District’s ASPIRE program.
“Having spent my professional career, 40 years plus, in schools, and recognizing the increase in school shootings, hundreds now since Columbine, that is something else that is very much on my mind. At all times,” he said.
Councilor Duke Wells felt that school shootings were a sign of a larger issue.
“For me, just saying when I was in high school, we had a gun club. We shot in the gymnasium. I’d go hunt ducks in the morning and bring my 12-gauge shotgun and put it in my locker. Nobody shot anybody. I think it’s more a mental health problem than a gun problem,” he said.
“On both sides of the argument, I believe that there is a mental health issue,” Forsythe said. “But we also know the federal government hasn’t been taking any action on that, as well. So to your point, I fully understand your concern.”
Orr agreed there was a mental health component, “but I also know the availability of weapons in the hands of someone who is mentally ill is a very bad combination and anything can happen.”
Wells said he supported the resolution 100 percent, and was proud to vote for it.
“I think it’s a great, great thing,” he said, pointing out that in California, a gun must be separated from its ammunition when traveling in a car. “That’s not a protective weapon anymore. I don’t want to see it go that way. There are legislatures in Oregon right now that are attacking the Second Amendment. It is ongoing right now. The legal weight of this probably isn’t that much, but it does send a message.”
Councilor Alan Montgomery recalled the fact that it was illegal for those under 18 to own a handgun and remembered when he would go practice shooting when he was younger.
Councilor Tom Mallen also “totally agreed” with the resolution.
“I agree there are problems in school,” he said. “But it is a mental health thing. Personally, I would like to see every teacher armed. I believe that would reduce the problems in the schools.”
“That’s a huge can of worms if you go in that direction,” Orr said.
Montgomery defended Mallen, saying “the response times go down,” while Orr replied, “and the number of accidents increases significantly.”
Forsythe stated that he did not believe anyone should be forced to carry a firearm, especially teachers who felt uncomfortable.
“And I'm not sure that every urbanite should have one, either,” he added. “It’s a sticky place to be, especially in today's society.”
He then thanked Orr for giving his perspective, “Especially with you being so involved with the schools. We really need to take those into consideration.”
“Every day I go into school, I hope we get through the day without an incident,” Orr said.
“Stay forever vigilant,” Forsythe replied.
A roll call vote had the resolution passing, with Orr being the only dissenting vote.
Finally, the council adopted a resolution declaring a state of emergency in regard to COVID-19.
“FEMA requires cities to adopt an emergency declaration before they will approve reimbursement for funding,” Dunes City Administrator Jamie Mills said when introducing the resolution.
The resolution would allow city councilors to hold online meetings, and it would help businesses — businesses are only allowed to obtain emergency funding if their city is under a state of emergency.
“Also, it shows support for the Western Lane Emergency Operations Group (WLEOG),” Mills said. “We support what they’re doing.”
After some clarification on the city's ability to enter into private contracts regarding COVID-19 emergencies, Wells stated that the virus “is not really a problem here right now, but we’re getting in front of it.”
“In 10 weeks it could be,” Forsythe said. “Cities may have the ability to request financial aid for any losses due to the governor’s decision to shut down restaurants. We need a state of emergency for them to be able to do that. So I don’t have a problem with this as it relates to the issues of COVID-19. I have a problem with it if we’re using the state of emergency of COVID-19 to affect a general state of emergency.”
Once it was clarified that the state of emergency only affected issues related to COVID-19, the resolution passed unanimously.