January 9, 2013  9:15 AM

Gun regulations, affordable housing could be topics on Metro's 2013 legislative agenda

Before the news-making mass shootings of 2012, Metro was seeking some authority from the Legislature to regulate firearm possession at its properties, particularly the Oregon Zoo. Metro currently has little authority to regulate whether people can carry guns at its properties.

The topic came up again Tuesday, when the Metro Council met to discuss its agenda for the 2013 Legislature.

A discussion draft of the agenda from Metro lobbyist Randy Tucker suggested that the regional government "supports legislation that increases Metro’s authority to regulate the carrying of firearms on Metro properties, and opposes legislation that limits or reduces that authority."

In theory, that would give Metro the same authority as a city or county to restrict firearms on its properties like the Oregon Zoo or its offices. Right now, Metro is limited to whatever city or county regulations apply to the carrying of firearms, and would have no legal ability to ban guns at its parks, for example, if the Metro Council chose to do so.

But the conversation about whether someone could walk into the Oregon Zoo carrying a handgun turned to Metro's hosting of gun shows at the Expo Center.

"I've received communications from constituents urging that I seek policy here to eliminate gun shows at the Expo Center because of the alleged inadequacy of the background check process and the communication message it sends about the role of firearms in our culture," said Councilor Bob Stacey.

Metro Council President Tom Hughes pointed out that a gun show at the Expo Center is a gun show that happens under Metro's roof, as opposed to another venue that might not have as many restrictions on buyers and sellers and data connections for sellers trying to conduct background checks, for example.

"I don't know that you're going to stop gun shows. They'll probably move to the Clark County Fairgrounds or other places where the facility is not equipped adequately to deal with the kind of technology we can provide at our facility," Hughes said. He said incidents of mass violence are "a much deeper and broader problem endemic in society that we're not going to solve – and we might in fact make worse by not offering this safe and sane alternative."

Councilor Craig Dirksen, the council's first elected Republican in more than a decade, said he didn't support any wording that would change current state firearms regulations.

When Metro chief operating officer Martha Bennett pointed out that this stemmed from a realization that Metro can't prohibit people from carrying guns at places like the Oregon Zoo, most of the council said they would support an increase in Metro's authority in regulating firearms at its facilities.

"I support this language, specifically because my concern is for safety – the safety of our employees as well as the safety of the public who comes to our multiple venues," said Councilor Kathryn Harrington.

Dirksen, however, disagreed.

"I knew I would be in the minority here," he said. "My concern with these kinds of laws is if you pass a law saying you can't bring guns to your facility, then the people who don't bring guns to your facility are people who obey the law – and they're not the ones you would need to be concerned with in the first place."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the legislation being proposed. It would not ban guns nor address the sale of guns at Metro-owned properties; it would allow the Metro Council to regulate possession of guns on its properties, if the council chose to do so. This version has been updated. 

Chase calls for more involvement on affordable housing

Councilor Sam Chase, in his first work session, pushed for the Metro Council to add affordable housing policy to its 2013 legislative agenda, calling for the regional government to support efforts that would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants who use government assistance to pay rent.

The Oregon Housing Alliance is calling on the Legislature to support a bill that would "remove barriers for tenants with Section 8 vouchers to renting homes in their preferred communities." Government-issued Section 8 vouchers cover the gap between what a low-income renter can afford and the market rental rate of the unit.

Councilor Shirley Craddick said such legislation could cut down on the clustering of Section 8 housing in certain parts of the region.

"I support this suggestion," Craddick said. "Section 8 does end up being geographically located."

Hughes said he also supported discussing the housing issue.

"It's a good intersection between the concerns we've had for the last two years where we've looked around and not really done much about affordable housing on the one hand and equity on the other hand, so what you described would be a step forward in both camps," Hughes said.

The Metro Council is scheduled to formalize its 2013 legislative agenda at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Read the report from Tuesday's work session (PDF)

Read the Oregon Housing Alliance's tenant choice white paper (PDF)

Metro News editor Nick Christensen can be reached atnick.christensen@oregonmetro.gov or 503-813-7583. Follow Metro on Twitter @oregonmetro.

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