"We gave 'em 6.2 beer, sprinkled marijuana all over the state and now we're gonna give 'em guns," Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley said. "Welcome to the wild, wild West." -
LAWTON - Phones were "ringing off the hook" at the Comanche County Sheriff'sOfficeonFridayasresidents called to inquire about Oklahoma's "Constitutional Carry" law.
The top question of the day, according to one CCSO employee, was "Does this mean felons are allowed to carry guns now?" The answer, a resounding - "No." Taking effect on Nov. 1, House Bill 2597, also known as permitless carry or constitutional carry, allows Oklahomans age 21 or older the right to carry a concealed, or unconcealed, firearm without a permit. But only if they are qualified to purchase a firearm. The law also applies to active duty military members, veterans or reservists 18-years of age or older.
NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS, WHAT ISN'T ALLOWED
Numerous provisions have been built into HB2597 outlining what is, and what is not allowed, according to the law. The governor's website states, "Under the bill, you cannot carry a concealed or unconcealed handgun in public and private schools K-college, public or private sports arenas, gambling facilities, government buildings, and private businesses, unless allowed by owner." To read HB2597 in its entirety, go to oklegislature.gov. Other provisions uphold the current law that you must pass a background check to purchase a gun and are required to disclose guns in your possession when requested by law enforcement officers.
Those convicted with a felony can- not own or purchase a gun, according to law, therefore they are prevented from legally carrying a firearm in any manner. People convicted of assault and battery, domestic abuse, illegal drug use or possession, those pronounced mentally ill and illegal aliens, will also be disqualified from carrying under the law. According to a "Constitutional Carry Fact Sheet" presented by the Oklahoma Senate Republicans, one myth to be dispelled about HB2597 is that, "Constitutional Carry will turn Oklahoma into the Wild West." It's one such "myth" that Sheriff Kenny Stradley feels may be all too real.
"We gave 'em 6.2 beer, sprinkled marijuana all over the state and now we're gonna give 'em guns," Stradley said. "Welcome to the wild, wild West." Even before the new permitless carry law took effect, Trooper Jacob Dickinson said Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials have always trained for various situations where they may encounter a citizen with a weapon. "When stopping any car, we don't know who's in it, or what's in it, until we make the stop," said Trooper Dickinson. "We always prepare for the worst and we're going to make sure that we're safe."
Under the previous self-defense act, concealed carry permit holders were required to immediately inform law enforcement officers during a traffic stop if they had a firearm in vehicle. HB2597 changes the rules slightly. Now, Trooper Dickinson said, officials must specifically ask if there is a weapon inside the vehicle. "If I ask you, 'Why are you carrying that gun?' and you say, 'self-defense', then that's your right," said Trooper Dickinson. If a firearm does happen to be located inside a vehicle or on a person that was not previously disclosed, Trooper Dickinson said a criminal misdemeanor charge may result.
For those who may be uneasy about the possibility of encountering someone carrying a visible firearm while out in public, Trooper Dickinson says as long as that person is "minding their own business" and carrying legally, the law is the law. "As people, we do have to understand that this is the law," he said. "So, if there's no kind of suspicious activity, this is the law and you can go to a different location where you feel safe. If you feel anxious or feel like something isn't right, call law enforcement. Let us know and we'll address the situation."
While Elgin Police Chief Paul Tracy declined to comment about the new law, Fletcher Police Chief Jason DeLonais said that initially, he was not pleased about Oklahoma becoming a permitless carry state. "My knee jerk reaction at first was, horrified," said Chief DeLonais. "Then I thought about it and checked the statistics." Digging through the history of other constitutional carry states, Chief DeLonais said he uncovered no information that implied those other areas had any increase in crime just because they had laws that allowed residents to carry without a permit. Now, he says he's "ambivalent" about the situation and encourages those individuals who would like to participate in the new law to invest in proper training.
"You're gonna have a lot of people running around with a $2,000 - $3,000 gun who really need a $500 gun and $2,000 worth of training," said Chief DeLonais. "It's an awesome responsibility. I know it's a constitutional right, but it's not like the movies. It takes individualized, professional, structuralized training if people really want to defend themselves and their family," he said. "These are motor skills - perishable skills you train for every year."
"As law enforcement, it's our job to protect the public and to assist on advising them to best be safe and we'd be remiss in our duties if we do not push for training." Co-owner of Bare Arms Gun Shop in Elgin Carole Wil- son said over the last several months a number of people have actually declined their previously scheduled Oklahoma Self-Defense Act (SDA) classes. The SDA class Bare Arms includes eight-hours of classroom instruction on laws and firearm safety based on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) handbook, range time and firearm handling by a licensed instructor. While the course is only necessary to obtain a concealed carry permit, gun owners will still be required to obtain a license in Oklahoma to have reciprocity recognized in other states.
"I've had people call to cancel saying they, with this new law, don't need to take any classes. True, but it's still beneficial to be informed," Carole said. "It's said this law is all about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms ... The right to protect yourself and your family is a good thing. Being informed and being responsible are also good. "Before a person chooses to carry for protection, have the ability to properly use a firearm safely by getting the training needed to do so," she explained. "Laws change and each state is different. Stay current with legally carrying in your state and when traveling to each state you plan to visit. Bare Arms not only offers SDA classes, the gun shop also sells weapons, ammunition, provides an on-site a firing range and offers individualized instruction that Carole refers to as "Handgun 101" courses. To schedule firearm safety and handling classes, visit Bare Arms Gun Shop at 10944 NE Trail Road, Elgin, or call (580)492-5347.