Oregon voters may decide to toss constitutional ban on duels

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Legislature may have an unusual request for voters in the next general election that harkens back to that fateful summer day in 1804 when a bitter rivalry between U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and the nation's first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, was settled with a fatal gunshot.

Should ongoing discussions in Salem materialize, voters would see a question on their general-election ballots asking if a 172-year-old ban on dueling by public officials — as in, the old-fashioned way of resolving fights — should be erased from the Oregon Constitution.

The constitutional ban in question is Article II, Section 9, which says anyone who offers, accepts, knowingly participates in a "challenge to fight a duel ... or who shall agree to go out of the State to fight a duel, shall be ineligible to any office of trust, or profit." (This is exact language from the constitution.)

The article was signed into law just 30 minutes after its drafting by the second provisional legislature in 1845, almost 15 years before Oregon's statehood, when squabbles were still often resolved by duel even decades after Hamilton's death on the opposite side of the country.

"They decided that it would not be very civil if two members of the Legislature disagreed and then shot each other on the front steps of the provisional capitol," Republican Sen. Brian Boquist said Wednesday during the proposal's first committee hearing.


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Today though, says Boquist, chief sponsor of the proposal, it's an archaic rule that's unnecessary for obvious reasons in modern times.

But like any change to the constitution, repealing it must be approved by Oregon voters.

Because this particular constitutional change is being proposed by lawmakers, rather than citizens, it must first go through the Legislature's approval process like any other bill. If it passes both chambers, the measure will then be referred to voters, rather than the governor, for the final say.

South Dakota man gets $190 fine for snake without leash

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A man who was fined for allowing his pet snake to slither freely in a South Dakota park said an animal control officer suggested he use a leash to restrain the reptile.

Jerry Kimball said he initially thought the recommendation was a joke because it was April Fool's Day when he was fined $190 and ticketed last week for "animals running at large," he told the Argus Leader.

"He was literally asking me to put a rope around my snake," Kimball said. "I was like, 'Dude, no.' I was dumbfounded."

Kimball was approached by the officer after a woman complained that his fire bee ball python was roaming freely at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.

Animal Control Supervisor Julie DeJong said a city ordinance requires all pets to be leashed or restrained in public. She said pet snakes can be held or kept in a container to comply.

"If it's in public and it's not on a leash, it's at large. The ordinance doesn't really distinguish between animals," she said.

DeJong added that snake lovers should be more sensitive to the aversion many people feel toward the animal. While nonvenomous snakes are legal to own, not all park visitors will welcome a python in a park.

But Kimball said he considers it his mission to rid the public's fear of snakes.

"That's my purpose in life: To let people know that snakes aren't killers," he said. "What better way to give back than to help people understand these misunderstood creatures?"

Kimball said he plans to fight the ticket in court.

Associated Press