The Corvallis City Council slogged its way through a boisterous, incendiary debate on “open carry” firearms ordinances Monday night.
The high drama, which concluded undramatically with the referral of the issue to a committee, took place, fittingly enough at the Majestic Theatre.
The meeting was moved from the usual council venue of the downtown fire station because of public interest in the open carry debate.
Approximately 150 people were on hand for the four-hour, 33-minute meeting, which included two hours and 12 minutes of testimony on open carry, with many of those testifying openly carrying.
A total of 49 people paraded to the two microphones. Three-fourths of those testifying opposed a proposed ordinance which would have restricted open carrying of loaded firearms in public places.
The issue came to the forefront because of an April 28 incident in Cloverland Park in which a man was seen carrying a firearm openly. The police received a 911 call, but the man left the park before police arrived.
Testimony Monday night ranged from readings of the Constitution and various court decisions to profanity-laced attacks on the council to accusations that Ward 5 Councilor Mike Beilstein is a “communist sympathizer.”
The word fear was used over and over, with proponents of the ordinance expressing concerns about their peace of mind and opponents, many of them from out of town, asserting that Corvallis residents have nothing to fear from people expressing their Second Amendment rights.
The council’s Human Services Committee split 1-1 on the ordinance Oct. 21, so it came to the full council without a recommendation.
Three councilors spoke in support of it, Beilstein, Penny York (Ward 1) and Joel Hirsch (Ward 6), but persuasive speeches by Hal Brauner of Ward 9) and Roen Hogg (Ward 2) convinced the council to send it back to the council’s Administrative Services Committee.
“What the community wants is the issue,” Brauner said. “We can do an ordinance, or we can do nothing, or maybe there are other alternatives, such as an advisory vote.
“We have to be concerned about the rights of citizens to feel safe in their community when there are guns around.”
Hogg expressed strong appreciation for those who came to testify and noted that “nobody has been hurt, nobody has been threatened. It’s a symbolic issue ... and it makes a lot of sense to put this out to a wider vote.”
In another major action, councilors voted 5-4 to ask city staff to prepare a report on the remand of the Campus Crest student housing complex by the state Land use Board of Appeals.
The appeals board sent the case back to Corvallis because of errors in analyzing transportation studies used during the public process in the case.
The report will be heard at the Dec. 1 council meeting. The minority in Monday’s vote preferred to hold a public hearing on the case.
Campus Crest, a Charlotte, North Carolina, development firm, wants to build housing intended for 900 Oregon State University students on the Witham Oaks property in northwest Corvallis.
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