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Gun Protesters at the Capitol Burn Governor's Effigy

Gun advocates prepare to Burn an Effigy of Gov. Kate Brown in Salem. Photo: Mike Bivins.
Gun advocates prepare to Burn an Effigy of Gov. Kate Brown in Salem. Photo: Mike Bivins.

On Friday, Sept. 23, dozens of gun-rights advocates rallied at the Oregon State Capitol, bringing with them not just an arsenal of guns but also an effigy of Gov. Kate Brown that was hung and burned on the steps of the Capitol. 

The open-carry protesters took issue with Brown’s Executive Order 16-12, which strengthens existing gun laws, as well as her intentions to bring forth legislation in 2017 to close several Oregon gun ownership loopholes.

Casey Runyan, listed on the protest’s Facebook event page as an organizer, says he and his fellow protesters “are in opposition to Kate Brown’s policies” and that “it doesn’t matter if there’s another Orlando shooting. It doesn’t matter if there’s another Sandy Hook. It doesn’t matter if there is any other kind of mass shooting — our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” 

During the protest, multiple groups went inside the Capitol while open carrying various sidearms and high-powered rifles. Most of the protesters entering the Capitol showed Oregon State Police their concealed handgun licenses (CHL) and then shook hands with the officers. 

However, Runyan did not comply and refused to show the troopers a CHL and proceeded to rove around the halls of the building — eventually tracking down and talking with state legislators Andy Olsen and John Davis. Troopers were seemingly everywhere as the open-carry protesters scoured the building for elected officials. 

Runyan was never arrested or asked to leave the building. Later, Bill Fugate, state police public information officer, told EW that Runyan is well known to them as a person with a CHL so they didn’t press the issue. A CHL is required for those who wish to open carry a gun in a public building. 

Runyan, who unsuccessfully ran for state representative in Oregon’s House District 9 in 2014, also says that regardless of the crime committed, if someone is safe enough to be released from prison, they are safe enough to own a gun. Runyan would not comment on the effigy burning. 

Republicans pulled their support from Runyan in 2014 after it was revealed he was convicted of drunk driving and felony assault in Michigan in 2004. According to news reports at that time, he has since been allowed to own guns after filing a petition for relief under the law, despite the felony.

The Oregonian reported that Brown’s office “condemned” the burning later that day.

Hours after the effigy burning, Ceasefire Oregon put out a press release saying it “condemns today’s reprehensible action by gun extremists directed toward Gov. Kate Brown.” Ceasefire Oregon’s Executive Director Penny Okamoto says, “We very much support the action Gov. Brown is taking.” 

Okamoto adds that “it’s not right” that a person can bring a loaded AK-47 into the Capitol but not a sign.

Likewise, State Rep. Val Hoyle says she supports Executive Order 16-12, as well as Brown’s intentions to close gun ownership loopholes. She also says the burning of Brown’s effigy was “very depressing,” and adds that Brown’s actions are about gun safety and not gun control.

Eugene’s Mayor Kitty Piercy also says she is supportive of Brown’s efforts to reform Oregon’s gun laws. Regarding the open-carry protest, Piercy says she doesn’t understand “why anyone needs or wants to open carry.” 

An effigy of then-Secretary of State Brown was also burned in 2013 by environmentalists at a party commenting on the Oregon State Land Board’s logging policies along with an effigy of then-Gov. John Kitzhaber. 

But this past Friday’s burning possibly points to something more sinister, as the effigy’s sign bore the cattle brand of infamous Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, along with a nod to Sen. Ron Wyden’s comment to the media after Finicum was killed that the occupation was “a situation where the virus was spreading.”