The Sooner State has been pretty friendly to gun owners and Second Amendment supporters over the past few decades; first adopting “shall issue” concealed carry back in the 1990s and more recently approving permitless carry in 2019. There’s always room for improvement, however, and lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills this year that would strengthen the Second Amendment rights of residents; many of them dealing with the number of “sensitive places” where concealed carry is still prohibited by law.
If every bill makes it through the legislative process, Oklahomans would be able to carry loaded guns into county or municipal buildings, onto college campuses, onto the Oklahoma and Tulsa fairgrounds, into nonprofits, onto public school parking lots and inside the state Capitol.
There would be only a few public places remaining where people couldn’t legally carry. People would still be barred from carrying in places like jails, prisons, courtrooms, courthouses, entities that treat mental illnesses, public schools, sporting arenas and casinos.
Proposed legislation also aims to make it easier for defendants to use the state’s stand-your-ground law, or castle doctrine law, which allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves in limited circumstances.
Another bill would bar entities from using public dollars to work against the Second Amendment, said Don Spencer, the executive director of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
He said the bills would restore constitutional rights of where people can carry. He said those rights have been ignored by the Legislature since 1907, when lawmakers passed the first gun law that banned carrying a pistol, rifle or shotgun.
He said at some point during the session, legislation may be introduced to allow state employees to carry as well while working.
“Our objective is to get rid of the no-gun zones. That’s the most dangerous places to be,” Spencer said.
What a refreshing departure from what we’ve seen in blue states like New York, New Jersey, and California since the Bruen decision was handed down. Unlike the anti-gun legislators in those states that have tried to ban the lawful carrying of firearms in almost every public and private setting, at least some Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing to ensure a robust right to bear arms in self-defense.
Even though Oklahoma is a ruby-red state with large Republican majorities in both chambers and a GOP governor as well, there’s no guarantee that any of these “sensitive places” will soon become open to the lawful gun owners. There’s been a push for campus carry for the past several years, but the higher-ed lobby in the state has managed to shut down those attempts every single time, and they’ll be lobbying once again to keep the current prohibitions in place.
Democrats, meanwhile, are offering up some gun control bills of their own, though they’re not likely to go anywhere.
State Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, said she filed Senate Bill 625 in an effort to hold an adult criminally accountable if they allow a minor access to a firearm for something other than what’s legally already allowed under law.
Boren said she’s also already heard from law enforcement who are concerned about allowing guns onto the fairgrounds because of the crowd sizes and the number of people in such close proximity.
She also said she continues to support college and university presidents’ calls to keep campus carry laws unaltered.
Boren said there are already enough places people can carry, especially if state law doesn’t have any financial or economic consequences for neglect. She said Oklahoma has some of the highest rates of gun deaths and injuries and high suicide rates.
“I don’t think that we should incentivize people to be perilous, and that’s kind of what we’ve done,” Boren said.
Spoken like a true opponent of civil rights.
The truth is that the state’s permitless carry laws haven’t led to mass anarchy or “Wild West” shootouts on city streets. In fact, homicides in Oklahoma City (the largest metropolitan area in the state) were actually down 20% last year after a brief uptick in 2020, when crime rates across the country shot up.
In 2022, OKC had 73 homicides, which is a 20% decrease compared to 2021 where there were 93 homicides. The statistics from 2020 were pretty similar to 2021.
OKC Mayor David Holt said it’s all about perspective.
“Whether it is 20% lower or 20% higher, these numbers are much, much lower than many other big cities around the country. Even per capita,” Holt said.
Taking a look at statistics from all the way back to 1972, OKC has averaged 70 homicides a year. A police spokesperson said in a statement, “You will notice the population of Oklahoma City has roughly doubled over the past 50 years. However, the number of homicides has remained fairly stable.”
When it comes to violent crime as a whole, homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults, all dropped year over year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most recent data showed there have been fewer violent crimes in OKC over the last 10 years.
It’s something KOCO 5 asked OKC Police Chief Wade Gourley about back in November.
“There’s a very small percentage of individuals in a community, even in a large city, that are responsible for the major of the violent crime and that’s what we’re doing now. we’re targeting those individuals, those groups, those gangs and it’s starting to make a difference,” Gourley said.
It’s a strategy that’s both far more effective and legally sound than criminalizing a constitutionally-protected right. Permitless carry hasn’t made the state a more dangerous place, and allowing responsible gun owners to legally carry in self-defense in more places shouldn’t be cause for alarm for anyone besides those criminals looking for a target-rich environment full of unarmed victims. Oklahoma has a chance to lead the way in repealing these unnecessary and legally questionable “sensitive places”, and the sooner they do the better.