Stars, bars, and open arms

By RICK WORMWOOD  |  April 28, 2010

Skolnik believes that an open-carry permit system would reassure a public that otherwise might be frightened by the proliferation of guns, although it is worth mentioning that nobody walking or jogging the Boulevard seemed disturbed by all the weapons. He said, “I don’t know of any reason why it (an open-carry permit system) would be a problem. If what we’re saying is that because of the urban nature of Portland, where there are no mooses [sic], but there is a lot of domestic violence, where there’s a lot of crime, and we have malls and campuses here, that we should regulate. Not ban, but regulate open-carry to the smallest degree that allows us to have some level of oversight of who is open carrying.”

An open-carry permit background check like the one Skolnik envisions would include both a criminal background check and a review of the applicant’s mental health history. Would that require the state checking confidential medical records? Skolnik said, “I would not think so. I think that the state is capable of checking against the records of medical or mental institutions. Simply finding that the person has not been there would be part of the check.” How many days could a potential applicant spend in Spring Harbor before being denied a permit? “I don’t know. Yes, it starts getting dicey at that time. Lawmaking isn’t easy. That’s why we take a slow deliberative approach.”

Skolnik also denied a claim oft-repeated by the open-carriers, that lawmakers like him intended to rescind constitutionally guaranteed rights. “I’m happy to engage in Constitution 101, but that’s what would need to happen before we could get to these arguments about if we’re taking away rights. No, I’m not. We’re not taking away rights. We are acting within the Constitution to seek some restriction on a right, i.e., getting a permit. But not taking away the right. Now if you want to argue that it’s taking away the right to walk around without a permit, yeah, it is. But you get a permit when you want to go hunting with your beloved gun, so what’s the difference?” By then, most of Skolnik’s counter-protesters had left.

That’s when I noticed Jim Millard, of Portland, standing in front of the flag truck and holding a lawn sign from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. When asked why he was doing it, Millard replied, “So that anybody looking at this sees that there are people who don’t believe in this stuff.” He didn’t plan to confront the truck’s owner. In fact, he had to leave soon to attend his kid’s soccer game, but if he had the chance to speak to the vehicle’s owner, Millard would “say to him that hate is a lot more dangerous than guns. I don’t care about people having guns and gun permits. Legal citizens should be able to do whatever the rights of the country allow them to do, but if someone is going to come here with a Confederate flag and a message of hate, then I’m going to come out and stand against it, because hate is what kills people. Guns are tools. That’s like saying shovels dig the ground. Shovels don’t dig the ground. People dig the ground and they shovel to do it. I’m not against the guns.”

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