That's right: in the nineteenth century, politicians — the very people who are meant to settle pressing problems calmly and logically, with persuasion and rhetoric — often opted to shoot one another instead. The practice was widespread, though the most well-known case happened in 1804, when US Vice President Aaron Burr shot the nation's first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Forty years later, Oregon state authorities were so fed up with the issue that then-Governor Jesse Applegate signed the ban on dueling within half an hour after it was introduced in the legislature.
"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, the main sponsor of the ban removal, said Wednesday during the proposal's first committee hearing.
According to Boquist, the duel ban is only one of many obsolete rules in the state constitution, some of which might be a basis for serious legal problems, should anyone decided to raise them in court.
"I want you to know that most of your stationery is probably in violation of the law because we have a constitutional clause as to how we can use our stationery," Boquist informed the committee.
He also pointed out that, in several paragraphs, the constitution contradicts later amendments.
According to Dan Meek, a Portland attorney and Oregon Progressive Party spokesman, and the only person to speak out against Boquist's initiative, removal of seemingly obsolete law will nevertheless have a direct and not entirely obsolete legal effect.
"This resolution would allow the candidacies of persons who give or accept challenges to fight duels," Meek wrote to the committee.
There is a more obvious reason against changing state law, Meek noted.
"There is a cost to removing obviously unenforced and unenforceable provisions in the Oregon Constitution, including the cost of processing and printing this resolution on millions of ballots and processing the results."
While Boquist agrees that removal of all arcane paragraphs would be better, the group had to opt for a one-step-at-time approach, considering the fact that a similar proposal failed back in 1970, when a group of lawmakers also tried to update the whole constitution in one go, including the politicians' duels part.
Should the proposal pass both chambers, it will appear on voter ballots as Senate Joint Resolution 44, or SJR 44, later in April.