OKLAHOMA CITY — After two weekend shootings that left dozens dead, gun rights advocates Monday doubled down on a controversial new law that will soon allow Oklahomans to carry guns without training or licensing.
“It doesn’t change our stance,” said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, which championed the measure, better known as constitutional carry.
“In fact, it supports our stance,” he said. “If there had been someone there that could have been legally carrying… (they) could have stopped the carnage before the nutjob went any further.”
Police said 22 people were killed Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, after a 21 year old gunned down shoppers inside a Walmart. Then in a separate shooting hours later, a 24 year old was accused of killing nine people at a nightlife area in Dayton, Ohio. The two mass shootings left 31 dead and more than 50 injured, according to the Associated Press.
Christine Jackson, a leader of the Moms Demand Action group advocating for sensible gun laws, said “the good guy with a gun theory is a myth.”
There were people carrying concealed in the El Paso Walmart, she said.
“They didn’t help,” she said. “They just caused confusion for the police officers that were trying to respond to the situation. They didn’t know who the shooter was.”
Jackson, of Tulsa, said Oklahoma’s constitutional carry law is “definitely unwise.”
“We need to be going forwards, not backwards when it comes to gun safety,” she said. “This doesn’t happen in other countries. It happens here because of our lax gun laws, and we need to do better.”
Oklahoma’s legislation allows anyone at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other criminal records to carry openly with no permitting, licensing or training. The bill does not allow people to brandish firearms nor does it change where Oklahomans can legally carry. For instance, people would still be prohibited from carrying on college campuses.
When the law takes effect Nov. 1, Oklahoma will become the 16th state to allow it, supporters say. Gun owners must still acquire a permit to legally carry in some other states.
State Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City, who opposed the measure, said he generally supports the Second Amendment, but constitutional carry is “just a step too far.” It allows people with no training to have firearms in public, he said.
He worries that injecting more guns into an active-shooter situation will result in more deaths as well-meaning, but untrained bystanders fire into crowds.
And Texas is an incredibly gun-friendly state, but there was no good guy with a gun there to save the day, Stone said.
“I think when we see these events transpiring around the country, you need to be taking action moving in the other direction, moving away from gun violence,” Stone said. “The current mind-set is any guns, anywhere, any time is a good thing. We need to be moving away from that.”
He said he’d welcome a special session to undo the constitutional carry legislation.
Stone said if politicians are serious about “their thoughts and prayers” being with the victims in Texas, it’s time to take action of some sort.
In 2018, a similar measure easily cleared the Legislature, only to later be vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin after business leaders and law enforcement officials expressed public safety concerns.
But in 2019, the measure marked the first legislation signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt following his November election.
State Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, who co-authored the legislation, said it was a wise bill.
Shootings are going to happen, and shooters are targeting people where they can kill a lot of people and not face pushback, he said.
“With allowing Oklahomans to constitutional carry, what we’re allowing is for your average Oklahoman to be able to defend themselves,” Murdock said. “I still think it’s a good idea.”
If it’s widely known that everyone in Oklahoma is carrying, it will deter shooters, he said.
Also, the people who will be carrying guns using the law are honest, upstanding people, Murdock said.
“They’re not the ones out there doing the mass shootings,” he said. “That’s the criminals, and they’re going to get the guns anyway.”
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.