Back in 2004, I left my longtime home of Oklahoma and moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. to start covering Second Amendment issues on a full-time basis as the first host of NRA News. At the time, there weren’t too many differences between the two states in terms of gun laws; both had “shall issue” right to carry, for example, and neither state had any sort of bans on magazine capacity or so-called assault weapons.
Over the past couple of years, however, the two states have veered off in different directions. While Oklahoma became the 15th state to approve Constitutional carry in 2019, Virginians put Democrats in charge of the state legislature, and we saw the first new gun control laws in nearly 30 years take effect in July of this year.
Oklahoma is still one of the most 2A-friendly states in the Union, which is why I laughed out loud when I saw this quote from Don Spencer, head of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
“The Republicans are the problem of why you cannot get pro-Second Amendment legislation done in the state of Oklahoma. We have a supermajority in the Senate, a supermajority in the House and we have the Governor’s office, so there is no one else to blame.”
You can’t get pro-Second Amendment legislation done in Oklahoma? Seriously? As I mentioned, just last year Oklahoma adopted permitless carry by wide margins; 70-30 in the state House and 40-6 in the state Senate. Honestly, the biggest struggle with passing pro-gun legislation in Oklahoma is that the state already has very strong protections for the right to keep and bear arms. There’s simply not a lot of bills to bring forward in a state with good laws on the books.
To be fair, Spencer was referring specifically to a bill proposed by Sen. Nathan Dahm that would declare the entire state of Oklahoma to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary. Spencer says that similar legislation has been proposed for the past several years, but it’s never been able to make it out of committee because of objections by the higher ed lobby and the state Chamber of Commerce.
Just because a pro-Second Amendment bill hasn’t become law doesn’t mean that Oklahomans can’t any pro-gun legislation passed. In addition to the Constitutional Carry bill signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2019, lawmakers in the state approved a first-of-its-kind anti-red flag law in this year’s legislative session. The bill banning Extreme Risk Protective Orders was also approved by Stitt, and took effect earlier this year.
I’m sure that Spencer is frustrated by the lack of progress on a statewide Second Amendment Sanctuary declaration, but the fact remains that the state is one of 18 out of 50 that allows for the carrying of lawfully-owned firearms without a license, and the only state in the union to have banned red flag legislation.
Spencer’s right when he talks about the influence of higher education and the Chamber in the state’s politics, though. Republicans admitted as much back in January, when the top-ranking Republican in the state House told the Chamber of Commerce that he would block campus carry legislation, which is already the law in neighboring Texas and Kansas.
Republican leadership in the Oklahoma Legislature have assured Oklahoma City’s business community that a proposed campus carry bill won’t make it far this year.
Senate Bill 1567 would allow anyone with a valid handgun license to carry a concealed handgun while on a university, college or CareerTech campus. The bill would allow schools to prohibit concealed handguns at events, including sports games.
State Rep. Jon Echols, the Republican who controls the flow of bills and the House daily agenda, expressed clear opposition Thursday during a panel discussion for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
“As long as I’m floor leader, we will not have the guns on campus bill hit the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives,” said Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
Senate leader and Oklahoma City Republican Greg Treat told the Chamber that the state’s “constitutional carry” legislation adopted last year faced a tough path because of worries it would apply to college campuses.
“I envision people filing those bills to do that. I do not envision that getting all the way through the process to the governor’s desk,” Treat said. “I was very supportive of (constitutional carry); I would not be supportive of going further on with college campuses.”
Obviously that’s incredibly inconsistent position to hold if your primary concern is protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and Spencer’s right to call out the fact that lawmakers are willing to bend to the interests of big business over our Constitutional rights. Still, as a Virginian eyeing the progress made in my former state with envy, I have to respectfully disagree with Don Spencer about the impossibility of enacting pro-gun laws in the state. Gun owners in Oklahoma have done a lot in the past couple of years that are the envy of gun owners in states like California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Illinois, and yes, even Virginia.