The gun ordinance: Does it apply to cities in Multnomah County?

GRESHAM, Ore. - The big question is, can county laws override city laws?

But all Roxanne Ross wants to know is whether she can use her gun the way she wants to in Gresham.

Ross planned to file a lawsuit on Friday against Multnomah County challenging whether a county gun-control ordinance that went into effect in May applies to Gresham, which has contradictory laws on the books.

"Sometimes I think it's difficult for Gresham because they're the little city to the east of Portland and in Multnomah County," Ross said Thursday. "Most of the county commissioners are elected by Portland, and so sometimes we just get kind of run over by the policies that come out of Portland."

The ordinance in question would prohibit possession of a loaded firearm in public places and prohibit firing guns anywhere in the county, among other things.

Ross' attorney, Bruce McCain, said he notified the county this spring of his intention to file the lawsuit. He compared the ordinance to the county's animal-control law, arguing that every city in the county has passed its own animal-control regulations that differ from the county's.

"Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village - there's nothing to stop their city councils from saying, you know what, we like the county gun ordinance, we're going to adopt it as our own and it applies inside our city," McCain said. "They can do that, but they haven't."

Ross said she owns a gun for peace of mind, not as a hobby. Her youngest son asked her to buy a gun for protection after he left home to join the Army.

"Police are wonderful, but they always come after the problem," she said. "Most gun owners never need to fire them - it is just that peace of mind that, should that sort of violent crime come your way, that you just won't be defenseless."

The point of the lawsuit is to include language in the ordinance that specifies that cities within the county can rely on their own laws on the matter, Ross said.

"Bad things happen in gun-free zones," she said. "The criminals, they just love these kinds of ordinances that intimidate the lawful gun owners from getting a firearm for personal protection.

"That's the part that's so hard for people. They think 'I can learn the rules now and they might change them later on' - and that deters people from owning a gun."