SALEM - The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has rescinded all administrative rules that restrict the possession of firearms during certain hunting seasons. However, hunters must follow existing rules that govern the type of weapon used to hunt big game, game birds or furbearers. As a result of the action, for example, bow hunters may choose to carry a firearm while deer or elk hunting. However, a firearm cannot be used to hunt deer or elk during the bow season.

The temporary rule was adopted as a result of a recent legal review that concluded the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission does not have the statutory authority to adopt administrative rules that prohibit possession of a firearm or ammunition.

Earlier this month, the commission directed ODFW Director Lindsay Ball to develop and adopt the temporary rule and suspend firearm and ammunition possession restrictions in the 2003 big game and furbearer regulations. Permanent rules will be adopted in October for the 2004 Oregon Big Game Regulations and the 2003-04 Oregon Furbearer Trapping and Hunting Regulations.

The 1995 Legislature adopted statute 166.170 that restricts the authority to regulate the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation and use of firearms and ammunition to the Legislative Assembly. However, Oregon Revised Statutes allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to regulate the manner in which wildlife can be taken by hunting and trapping.

Following is the language of ORS 166.170: "State preemption. (1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly. (2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void."

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