Oregon Lawmaker Advocates For Removing Ban On Political Duels

Apr 5, 2017

Oregon politicians aren't allowed to hold duels. It says so in the state constitution. But one state lawmaker Wednesday made his case for ending that ban.

Sen. Brian Boquist said that while he's capable of participating in a duel, he isn't trying to clear the way for a one-on-one showdown with a rival. The Polk County Republican said he's trying to draw attention to a number of what he calls "arcane" sections of the state constitution.

One section bans the taxation of ships -- but only until 1935. Another contains very specific instructions on who may or may not sell stationery to state government.

Boquist made his case for repealing the ban on political duels to the Senate Rules Committee.

"There's a whole bunch of laws that we just don't use anymore that are seriously outdated,” Boquist said. “Now the dueling clause in the constitution is one of those."

The panel didn't immediately act on the proposal. Any change to the state constitution would ultimately have to go before Oregon voters.

No one testified against the measure, although the Oregon Progressive Party submitted written testimony in opposition. Chair David Delk wrote, "This resolution would remove a disincentive to dueling among Oregonians."

The ban on dueling between office-holders in Oregon dates to the days before statehood. According to the Legislative Policy and Research Office, during a meeting of a committee that drafted the original set of laws for the provisional Oregon government in 1845, "committee member Jessie Applegate presented a bill to prohibit dueling and within half an hour the measure was signed by the Governor."

The office cites a history of Oregon's early days that was written by William Henry Gray, a member of the provisional legislature.

This isn't the first attempt to remove the ban on dueling between politicians from the Oregon Constitution. In 1970, Oregon lawmakers proposed a wholesale re-write of the document, attempting to "eliminate obsolete material, clarify conflicts and restate the remainder in clear, modern language," according to a statement filed in the voters pamphlet. The proposal would have eliminated about 10,000 words from the document, including Article II, Section 9, which contains the ban on dueling for people holding public office.

Voters didn't buy it, though. The proposal was defeated by a nearly 2-1 margin.