Oklahoma lawmaker looks to lower carry age from 21 to 18

Oklahoma lawmaker looks to lower carry age from 21 to 18
(AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

While many Democrat-run states will be looking to raise the age to exercise your Second Amendment rights from 18 to 21 next year (more on that coming up on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co), red states are running in the opposite direction. Just a few days ago we reported on a push by the Georgia group GA2A to get lawmakers to lower the age for concealed carry from 21 to 18, and now a lawmaker in Oklahoma has introduced legislation to do the same in the Sooner State.

Rep. Jim Olsen, a Republican from eastern Oklahoma, has introduced HB1001, a fairly simple piece of legislation that would make it legal for adults under the age of 21 to carry a firearm in self-defense. Since Oklahoma is a Constitutional Carry state, once you turn 18 your right to both keep and bear arms would be yours to exercise without first receiving permission from the state; something Olsen calls a “God-given right”.

“You can exercise other constitutional rights, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” said Olsen. “There’s no reason why this right should not also be available to them.”

In 2019, Governor Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 2597, establishing Oklahoma as a “Constitutional Carry” state. That meant anyone 21 years or older could legally carry any firearm openly or concealed, even without a license. The only way an 18-year-old can legally carry is if they have a military designation.

Don Spencer is the President of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association. He said this bill puts Oklahoma in line with the US Constitution.

“The right is very clear,” said Spencer, referring to the Second Amendment. “It’s an enumerated right. It says the right of the people to keep bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It does, and like Olsen, I believe that 18-year-olds should have full access to their Second Amendment rights. That was certainly the intent of those who wrote the text of the amendment, and it’s how the right has been treated throughout our nation’s history. Still, I suspect that this bill is going to be pretty contentious, even for ruby-red Oklahoma, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a compromise of sorts soon emerges.

Remember, while the Supreme Court struck down “may issue” concealed carry laws in Bruen, it also ruled that “shall issue” concealed carry licenses are in accordance with that right, and do not, in and of themselves, constitute an infringement (though that may not be the case if they impose excessive fees, require excessive training mandates, or delay the issuance of a permit for a prolonged time period). I’m a Constitutional Carry supporter, and I firmly believe that 18-year-olds have the same right to keep and bears arms that a 48-year-old does, but under SCOTUS’s guidance in Bruen (which said nothing about the age our Second Amendment rights kick in) it’s not a violation of any gun owner’s rights if they can at least acquire a concealed carry license.

In Oklahoma, however, you can’t get a carry license until you turn 21, at which point you can carry without one (as long as you can legally own the firearm, anyway). If Olsen’s bill goes too far for Republicans who represent more populous parts of the state around Oklahoma City and Tulsa, there’s always the option of lowering the age to acquire a concealed carry license from 18 to 21, while maintaining the current limit of 21 to carry without a permit.

Philosophically I’m fine with Olsen’s proposal, and even from a political perspective I’d say it has a good chance of becoming law. You know the left will blame every crime that someone 18-to-20 commits with a gun on the law’s enactment going forward; but then, they already blame crime on the lack of gun control, even in states like California where there’s plenty of it. I’m not opposed to Olsen’s legislation, but I know that others will be, and I hope that pro-2A legislators have a backup plan if Olsen’s bill runs into trouble.