OKLAHOMA CITY— Oklahomans soon could be allowed to openly carry holstered firearms under a bill that passed the Senate on Thursday and is heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.
The Senate voted 33-10 for legislation that would allow residents who apply for a concealed carry permit to also openly carry their guns in a holster. Fallin generally withholds comment on legislation until her staff has had time to review it, but she has previously indicated she supports a “responsible” open-carry bill.
The measure approved in the Senate simply expands the state’s current concealed-carry law to include unconcealed weapons. Individuals would still have to take a firearms training course and apply for a license, which includes submitting photographs and fingerprints for a background check.
All of the opposing votes came from Democrats, who argued that allowing people to openly carry firearms could pose problems for law enforcement officers who arrive on the scene of a crime.
“If you go into an area where there’s been a shooting and people have guns … who’s the bad guy?” asked Sen. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, a former police officer. “If a person goes for their gun, they’re probably going to be shot.”
Some Republicans expressed concern that the bill requires individuals to fill out an application and meet certain criteria for what should be a constitutional right.
“I have real concerns with the approach we’re taking,” said Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, who had previously sponsored a measure that would allow any law abiding adult to openly carry without a license. “I reject the notion that government grants the God-given right of self-defense.
“You cannot take away what God has granted.”
But supporters like Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, who sponsored a similar measure in the House, said he believes the bill contains numerous safeguards. Under the bill, it remains illegal to carry a weapon into certain places such as public buildings, schools, sporting events and places where alcohol is served.
“It’s just to give law abiding citizens the ability to carry a pistol in a holster,” Martin said. “I think you’ll see people carrying firearms openly very rarely.”
If Fallin signs the bill, the rules would take effect Nov. 1.