Chiloquin believes in gun control — every resident needs to control their own gun.
According to City Ordinance No. 428, every head of household in the city of Chiloquin “is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition.”
The law is not enforced and there’s no penalty for not owning one, said City Recorder Teresa Forman. It also provides exemptions for those who are unable to own a gun for legal, physical or mental health reasons.
“I think the law is just kind of there,” said Forman. “The handful of people who know about it are just tickled by it.”
Forman said most people don’t know about the law, but those who do have never said anything negative about it to her.
“Most everybody out here owns a gun anyway,” she said. “They don’t think about the law much except every few years when the media brings it up.”
On June 17, 1982, three-fourths of the City Council voted to enact the law “in order to provide for the civil defense of the City of Chiloquin, and further to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”
Exemptions were written for “those heads of households who conscientiously oppose firearms as a result of religious doctrine or belief,” people legally restricted from owning a firearm because of a felony conviction, or those who have physical or mental issues that would prevent them from being able to properly use a gun.
City Council members at the time are quoted as saying they supported the ordinance out of worry that Californians moving to the area would try to enact stricter gun laws like those on the books in that state.
With the recent push by President Barack Obama and other federal lawmakers to increase restrictions on gun ownership, lifelong Chiloquin resident and past City Councilman Floyd Hescock is glad for the law’s existence.
“They put this law in place because they didn’t trust the government,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would have the courage to come and try to get them from us.”
Gun violence in Chiloquin
Hescock said most people in Chiloquin would own a gun regardless of the law.
“Now they want to take our semi-automatics; well that means taking every .22 in the county,” he said. “When you see someone around here walking around with a semi-automatic gun they’re probably heading out to shoot squirrels or going down to the river to shoot at the water.”
Hescock, who’s nearly 80 years old, said the lack of gun violence in Chiloquin means the law is working.
“We haven’t had any deaths by a gun since the 1960s,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life and it’s been a long time since anyone has been killed with a gun.”
Asked about the 2011 shooting death of Lynda Dunham and the 2010 shooting death of 18-year-old Troy Shane Allen, Hescock points out neither of those incidents occurred within Chiloquin city limits.
Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah said that owning a gun is a constitutional right that brings responsibilities with it.
“People say they own a gun to protect themselves in their home,” he said. “A lot of people have a gun, take it out and shoot it once or twice and think they have expertise.”
Skrah recommends getting proper training and practicing regularly in order to be comfortable handling and shooting a gun. This could help the owner react with better judgment in a high-stress situation.
“It takes a lot of good judgment to know when to drop the hammer on that thing,” Skrah said.