The first reading has been held in the Senate for a propsed bill that would allow gun owners to carry weapons openly without the state-issued license that is now required by law.
The Oklahoma House last week overwhelmingly adopted legislation that would permit gun owners to carry their weapons openly without the state-issued license. House members voted 73-15 for the so-called "constitutional open carry" measure and sent it to the state Senate for debate and a vote.
The measure's author, Republican Rep. Jeff Coody of Grandfield, said it is similar to open carry laws in more than 30 other states and would allow gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment right to carry firearms openly, such is in a holster, without having to comply with existing state government licensing requirements.
Coody said persons who want to carry a concealed weapon would still be required to obtain a state permit.
The measure has prompted some local readers to comment on the News-Star's Facebook page, with some questioning the bill, thinking it is already a law.
Oklahoma's Self-Defense Acts allows those who want to conceal carry a gun to do so if they have the state-issued license. Open carry is legal in Oklahoma, provided those persons also follow requirements to obtrain the state-issued conceal carry license.
The proposal would eliminate the licensing for open carry only.
“It's the ultimate freedom bill regarding open carry," Coody said. Coody and other supporters said citizens who are qualified to own a handgun should not be required to ask the government for permission and pay a fee to openly carry it.
"It's our God-given right to defend our self," said Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw.
But opponents said it would have serious financial consequences for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which administers firearms licenses issued under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act.
A fiscal analysis performed for the House indicates the measure would reduce OSBI's revenue by at least $6 million and would lead to the loss of jobs and reduced operating expenses at the agency.
The reduction in revenue would be because firearms owners would no longer seek concealed carry licenses — which cost $100 for initial 5-year license and $200 for 10 years — if they could carry a gun openly without a license. There are now more than 238,300 Oklahomans with active licenses to carry handguns, according to state figures.
Some readers have mixed feelings on the recent action..
“It's called the 2nd Amendment,” Michael Kern said, while Keith Womack added, “I have no problem with it.
But Hellen Clarkson Gower Largent said, “Crazy.”
Opponents also questioned the need for the legislation.
"The system we have in place works. It's not broken," said Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City.
Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said the measure could increase incidents of domestic violence in the state. By not requiring a permit to openly carry a firearm, Virgin said the legislation also eliminates the state's requirement that firearms license holders complete mandatory training on how to safely handle and use a weapon.
Coody said gun owners are free to get all the training they think they need.