OKLAHOMA CITY — Opponents of legislation allowing Oklahomans to carry firearms without licensing or training said a series of incidents already have occurred in just the first two weeks since the law first took effect.
In one incident, a 3-year-old girl found a gun in a bathroom at an Oklahoma City restaurant that had banned firearms on its premises, said Cacky Poarch, a volunteer with the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group that pushes for gun-control policies.
Then Stillwater police reported a man accidentally discharged a holstered gun inside the Walmart Supercenter. Police told reporters that store also didn’t want guns inside.
Poarch said there also have been reports of at least one person taking a loaded gun into a popular Moore movie theatre, and of an armed man approaching a place of worship “to cause trouble,” she said.
Oklahoma City police also reported last week that they arrested a 52-year-old Choctaw man for violating a state law that prohibits carrying rifles into restaurants where alcoholic drinks are consumed.
“I think it’s very, very disturbing,” said Poarch, of Oklahoma City. “All the incidents that have happened since permitless carry has gone into effect.”
The controversial legislative measure, which took effect Nov. 1, allows anyone at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other criminal records to carry with no permitting, licensing or training. The bill does not allow people to brandish firearms, nor does it change where Oklahomans can legally carry.
Supporters of the measure, though, said this week they’re worried critics will unfairly try to link all gun-related incidents to the new law. That includes a Monday shooting outside a Duncan Walmart that left three people dead.
The law only applies to people who are legally and peacefully carrying, said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, which championed the measure.
“Our objective is to make sure a peaceful person has a reasonable chance to defend themselves because we know the illegal actions of these others are not going to pay attention to the law anyway,” he said.
He said the implementation of "constitutional carry" has been going fine the first two weeks.
“We’re not hearing of any problems with the exception of one person who is a bit zealous about it,” he said, later adding that he was referencing the 52-year-old Choctaw man.
Still, Spencer is urging gun owners to stop conducting the so-called “constitutional carry audits” where ardent Second Amendment test the boundaries of the state’s gun laws.
“I don’t see of a need to go and stir things up,” he said.
Just because people now have the right to carry doesn’t mean they necessarily should, Spencer said.
“Going into a restaurant carrying a rifle just isn’t practical,” he said. “What are you going to do? Sit and eat with a rifle across your lap?”
Spencer said a number of restaurants and businesses, meanwhile, have started blocking all firearms — including concealed handguns — just because they don’t want to see shotguns or rifles.
He said businesses initially instituted similar blanket gun bans the last two times state lawmakers made substantial changes to Oklahoma’s firearm laws. Within three years, most relaxed those restrictions, Spencer said.
“It kind of tapered off because it was no big deal,” he said. “Stickers will go up, and they’ll realize it’s no big deal.”
Under state law, private business owners can ban firearms. It’s also illegal to carry at any kind of educational facility, the state Capitol, courthouses, detention centers, federal properties, casinos and professional sporting events.
Poarch, the gun-control advocate, said she’s been distributing “firearms prohibited” window stickers to business owners who don’t want untrained and unlicensed consumers carrying guns into their establishments.
“It is bad for business in Oklahoma,” she said. “It’s a horrible, reckless policy.”
In response to concerns, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said he’s proposed an income tax credit for residents who successfully complete the gun safety course previously required to get a concealed carry permit.
“Since constitutional carry has gone into effect, many people have expressed concerns about no longer forcing people to undergo government-mandated training in order to exercise their rights,” he said in a statement. “Even though we haven’t had any major incidents, I encourage everyone to exercise their rights in a safe and informed way. This bill will allow those who wish to take the training course to do so and then claim an income tax credit for the costs of the course.”
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.