New gun laws in Oklahoma will bring significant changes to the way people in the state and even how people from other states can carry firearms in Oklahoma. Beginning Nov. 1, changes in the language of the Oklahoma Self Defense Act allow “Constitutional Carry” or “Permitless Carry.”
The new wording eliminates the previous requirements for licensure and six hours of training, provided citizens follow regulations regarding where they cannot carry firearms. Firearms are not allowed in any government buildings, schools, or other any place the government is doing business.
Guns are still allowed in government-owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife refuges and management areas, and the fairgrounds, except inside the buildings unless otherwise notified, said Lt. Jeff Richardson of the Edmond Police Department.
Additionally, people from outside Oklahoma can now legally carry guns openly, without licenses in the state.
The new law allows people to openly carry a pistol or rifle up to 16 inches in barrel length, or a shotgun, no longer than 26 inches in barrel length. Owners must be at least 21, or active duty military 18 or older. Gun owners can carry a loaded pistol inside a car, but clip or magazine-loaded long guns and shot guns must not be chamber-loaded.
Federal background checks will still take place when a firearm is purchased from a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer. The background checks prohibit felons, those with domestic violence convictions and those with adjudicated mental health situations from purchasing from an FFL dealer.
Oklahomans have expressed mixed emotions about the new gun law, which places Oklahoma within the list of states with the loosest gun laws in the country. Lawsuits have failed to waylay the law and a grassroots group of protesters is going business-to-business handing out “No Guns Allowed” stickers.
“I’m an unabashed liberal in a sea of red. And I’m a gun owner with a concealed carry license,” said Gary Sims, who was raised in Edmond and is now a Tulsa physician. “I’m very conflicted on the new gun laws. I think people need training to handle a gun.
“More often than not, that training is expensive and covered in unnecessary red tape that curtails the rights of the already poor and disenfranchised,” Sims said.
Joseph Llewellyn of Edmond agrees. He owns five guns and is against laws requiring him to register his guns or carry a license, because he doesn’t think the government needs to know how many guns he has. But he’s conflicted there, too.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a guy to own like 50 AR-15s. That’s crazy. But you tell me, does he have a right to do it?” Llewellyn said.
While Llewellyn doesn’t think people should be required a license to carry a gun, he feels strongly they should be required to attend training of some sort. He thinks the training should fall under the purview of the federal government, since it boils down to a Second Amendment question.
Lt. Richardson said police officers have similar concerns about the new law, but as law enforcement officers, their job is not to create policy, but to enforce it.
“Cops are like everyone else,” Richardson said. “Whether or not an individual person is in favor (of the new law) or not, it is fairly clearly-written and we train our officers to enforce this law as written.”
Weapons can now be left inside a parked car at a school but may not leave the confines of the car. Many businesses have and will continue to post “No Guns Allowed” signs, but you can legally leave your gun safely inside your car in that business’ parking lot.
A LEGAL ACTION
If guns make you uneasy, it’s important to remember that, unless businesses ban guns, you’re likely to see more weapons carried openly as you go about your days, Richardson said.
“When you’re walking through (a store) and you see a person with a gun, after Nov. 1, it’s okay. It’s a legal action,” he emphasized. “If you feel stressed, feel free to call us, but our response may not be what you pictured in your mind when you called the police.”
So how do we know the good guys from the bad guys? It’s a question Richardson said he’s heard more and more, and he admits he doesn’t have a great answer.
“You don’t. You don’t know who is a bad guy,” Richardson said.
He likens it to picking a felon out of a crowd. How do you know a felon from anyone else? You don’t.
“You’re just another person with a gun until you do something different.”
Gun owners can continue to get licenses for open and concealed carry. If you want to travel with your gun, you should consider reciprocity between states. If you go to Texas, your Constitutional Carry right won’t be recognized, but your license to carry will. If you go to Kansas, you’re in a Constitutional Carry state.
Richardson said he thinks gun owners should receive training, but the six hours of training previously required was mostly about gun laws.
Will people find ways to abuse the new law? It’s likely.
“There will be people abusing the Constitutional Carry law. It’s really tough to do because it’s so open, but there are certainly going to be violations of it,” Richardson said.
“We really are encouraging that you need to go learn the law. You really have to know it because you’re held responsible, even if you’ve never read it.”