Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation expressed unanimous agreement on Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense.


Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation expressed unanimous agreement on Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense.

Owners of state gun shops also said they agreed with the 5-4 decision, which struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, which has been in place since 1976.

Rep. Frank Lucas of Cheyenne, a Republican, said the decision "has righted a 30-year wrong ... The only success this gun ban achieved was to turn D.C. into the murder capital of the country, disarming law-abiding citizens while keeping guns in the hands of criminals."

At question was the meaning of the Second Amendment, a subject the court had not conclusively interpreted since the amendment's ratification in 1971. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Bill Yirka, who owns Bill's Outdoor Sports in Enid, said the authors of the Constitution deliberately used the word "infringed" in the amendment, because they did not want any interference with an individual's right to bear arms.

"The major thing that came out of that ruling is the Supreme Court finally decided the word 'militia' didn't mean the military, it means a private citizen," he said. "That will go a long ways down the road. If they had ruled the other way of that ... our gun rights would have been completely in jeopardy."

State Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, echoed that sentiment, saying "I do not agree with the idea that gun ownership should be tied to service in a state militia ... The right to keep and bear arms in a crucial part of our history."

In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that an individual right to bear arms exists and is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

"Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of the nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem," Scalia wrote. "That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

He also wrote that the decision does not "cast doubt" on existing gun laws such as those that prohibit the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, the carrying of firearms in places such as schools and government buildings or that impose conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms.

That is fine with Tom Hughes, the owner of The Firing Pin, a gun store in Hinton.

"Most gun owners are very, very reliable people," Hughes said. "I've got little signs in my shop that say safety should be the top priority in using the firearm. You've got to be responsible with it."

He said gun purchases have "got to be documented. They are a good thing, in the hands of the right people. It's the same thing as a car or a boat."

U.S. Reps. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma City, Tom Cole of Moore and John Sullivan of Tulsa — all Republicans — also issued statements in support of the court decision.

"This is a true victory for freedom and one that underscores the significance of individual Constitutional rights," Cole said. "... The weight and importance of this ruling cannot be overstated."

Rep. Dan Boren of Muskogee, the delegation's only Democrat, is a member of the National Rifle Association's board of directors and the co-vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus.

"As a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, this decision renews my commitment to uphold every Oklahoman's right to protect themselves and their family," Boren said.

Sens. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa and Tom Coburn of Muskogee, both Republicans, also said they strongly agreed with the decision. Coburn quoted the nation's first and fourth presidents.

"Our founders emphasized the importance of this right to protect ourselves," Coburn said. "George Washington stated that, 'No man should scruple or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense.'

"President James Madison, a signer of the Constitution, wrote, 'The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.'"

Inhofe said the Second Amendment was written by the nation's founding fathers "because they believed a well-armed populace was the ultimate check on the power of the federal government."

State Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat Inhofe during the upcoming election, said the ruling "affirmed what most Oklahomans already know to be true. No government can take away the constitutional right of individual American citizens to own firearms."

 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.