Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lawmakers Review State's Gun Laws

For the first time in at least a decade, state lawmakers met to review the status of Oklahoma’s gun laws in an effort to maximize citizens’ rights.

“We are conducting a serious, thoughtful examination of Oklahoma’s gun laws,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, a Sapulpa Republican who requested the study. “Our goal is to develop responsible proposals for expanding the right to carry firearms in self-defense.”

During the study, members of the House Public Safety Committee heard testimony from Oklahoma City University law professor Michael O’Shea, a nationally recognized expert on the Second Amendment; Miles Hall, owner of H&H Gun Range in Oklahoma City; Tim Gillespie, an official with Oklahomans for the Second Amendment; Charles Smith, a representative of the Oklahoma Rifle Association; and Maj. Rusty Rhoades of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

“To foster this discussion, we invited academics, grass-roots organizations, and law enforcement officials to be presenters at the meeting,” McCullough said. “It was a truly diverse group of experts and a serious, deliberate discussion.”

During the study, legislators considered at a wide range of issues, including modifying the weapons permitting process, open carry, and even possible constitutional issues that may need to be addressed in light of certain court rulings.

Since the Oklahoma Self Defense Act (concealed carry law) was created in 1995, O’Shea noted that 107,000 licenses have been issued with only 30 revocations, 85 suspensions related to felony arrests, and six to 24 suspensions per year for failure to conceal.

However, O’Shea told lawmakers the Oklahoma Self Defense Act is unreasonably harsh in its concealment provision. The Oklahoma law states that the gun must be completely concealed from view and detection, meaning even accidental exposure of the weapon is a crime.

Hall echoed those concerns. He noted that H&H Gun Range currently has over 200,000 members and said one of the most common problems his customers mention is casual exposure and the potential legal consequences.

Gillespie urged lawmakers to amend state law to allow gun owners to openly carry a weapon on their own private property, saying such restrictions are unreasonable.

“There’s a lot to look at here,” said McCullough, an attorney who previously worked in the Civil Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s office. “However, by exploring these issues in advance of the 2012 session, I believe we can flesh out several responsible proposals for legislators to consider when we reconvene in February.”

Share |