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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Open carry causing few issues for law enforcement

  • Nearly two months after it became legal for more than 140,000 licensed Oklahomans to openly carry their firearms, many in law enforcement who were initially concerned about the new law and what it could bring say there's been no real problems.
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  • Nearly two months after it became legal for more than 140,000 licensed Oklahomans to openly carry their firearms, many in law enforcement who were initially concerned about the new law and what it could bring say there's been no real problems.
    Tecumseh Assistant Police Chief J.R. Kidney was among those with concerns about officers differentiating the persons legally carrying weapons versus those carrying firearms illegally once the law became effective Nov. 1.
    "I was skeptical - I thought it would be like going back to the Old West," Kidney said, concerned there would be many wearing guns, prompting extra precaution and awareness by law enforcement in certain situations.
    But Kidney said it's been quite the opposite.
    "I have not seen or come in contact with anyone openly carrying," Kidney said, adding that it hasn't been an issue.
    While Kidney suspects many licensed gun owners are choosing to continue to carry concealed weapons, he said he's still somewhat surprised he's yet to see anyone carrying.
    Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz also hasn't seen or heard of any issues from his officers.
    "So far, the open carry has been a non-event in the Shawnee area," the chief said, adding he's only heard of two people being spotted openly carrying a firearm in town.
    "I think most people that have the handgun licenses realize that it is probably more prudent to carry concealed rather than open carry," Frantz said.
    Still, it's a possibility that open carry is an issue that any officer could contend with on any call.
    "Weapons at any disturbance are and always will be a concern for law enforcement because the officers have to determine if the person with a weapon is a friend or foe," Frantz said,
    Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth had concerns before the law went into effect and said he still does, although he admits he's only personally seen one person openly carrying, which means many are likely still carrying concealed.
    "That gives me more confidence that citizens are using common sense," Booth said.
    Some of Booth's concerns about open carry were — and continue to be — about persons who may not be properly trained or prepared for a situation concerning retention of a weapon in a holster.
    Booth said the one person he saw carrying a weapon openly had a good retention-type holster, which he was glad to see. Booth said his biggest concern isn't about the person openly carrying with a license, but someone else trying to get that person's weapon away from them during a situation.
    "Don't think you're the baddest dude on the block," Booth said, encouraging awareness and responsible carrying in the open.
    Page 2 of 2 - Senate Bill 1733 was signed in May by Gov. Mary Fallin and amended the Self Defense Act, effective Nov. 1. On that date, more than 140,000 licensed Oklahomans could choose to carry openly or continue to carry their weapons concealed. There are restrictions to open carry, as weapons must be .45 caliber or less, and all firearms must be in a belt or shoulder holster.
    Even with the new law, firearms are still prohibited in federal, state or local government buildings or properties, including schools and universities. Firearms also are prohibited in bars, at arenas during sporting events and any business that elects to prohibit them.
    Early on, a few Shawnee area businesses took proactive measures before Nov. 1 to put up signs restricting firearms, including Shawnee Mall, but it seemed that more businesses weren't doing anything at all, with either no intent of banning them or taking a "wait-and-see" approach.
    Watch for updates.
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