Oklahoma’s open-carry firearms law takes effect Thursday

Nick Oxford/The New York Times

Stillwater Armory owner Tom Smith wears his Ed Brown 1911 .45-caliber pistol at
the store in Stillwater, Okla. A new Oklahoma state law takes effect Thursday
allowing anyone licensed to carry a concealed firearm to carry the weapon out in
the open. 


The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, 31 October 2012 –

OKLAHOMA CITY — A new law will take effect Thursday in Oklahoma — anyone licensed to carry a concealed firearm can choose to carry a weapon out in the open, in a belt or shoulder holster, loaded or unloaded. And Bryan Hull and his friends – supporters of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association – could hardly wait.

They planned to mark the occasion by wearing their unconcealed handguns while dining at Beverly’s Pancake House, a 24-hour restaurant, shortly after midnight.

“We’re all licensed by the state to carry,” said Hull, 44, the association’s co-director. “We’ve all been trained and vetted. Why wouldn’t somebody want to have that kind of a group do business with them in their establishment?”

In a state with 142,000 men and women licensed to carry concealed weapons, the scene will most likely become commonplace as Oklahomans take advantage of the law by displaying their handguns while they shop for groceries, eat at restaurants and walk into banks.

Advocates for gun rights said the ability to “open carry” would deter crime and eliminate the risks of a wardrobe mishap, such as when someone carrying a concealed weapon breaks the law by accidentally exposing the firearm. But the new law is a symbolic as well as practical victory. Supporters said there was no better advertisement for the Second Amendment than to have thousands of responsible adults openly carrying their weapons.

“This enhances Oklahomans’ ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said state Sen. Anthony Sykes, a Republican, who wrote the legislation allowing Open Carry in Oklahoma. “I think the evidence is clear that gun owners are some of the most responsible people, and they’ve shown that in not just Oklahoma, where we’ve had concealed carry for quite some time and there’s never been an incident, but in these other states as well.”

When the law takes effect, Oklahoma will become the 15th state to allow people to openly carry firearms with a license. Those 15 states include Utah, Iowa, New Jersey and Connecticut, but not Texas, which does allow licensed people to carry concealed weapons. Several other states, including Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, have even more permissive laws that allow the carrying of unconcealed firearms without a license. All but six states and the District of Columbia allow some form of open carry, said John Pierce, founder of OpenCarry.org.

On the East Coast, open-carry laws generate little controversy because several states make it hard for average citizens to acquire the permits necessary to display unconcealed firearms.

But Oklahoma is considered a “shall-issue” state, meaning that once a resident meets the legal requirements, officials must issue a license.

In Oklahoma, some police officials, merchants and residents have expressed varying levels of concern and unease with the law. In 2010, a similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, in part based on law enforcement concerns that such a law would make it difficult for officers to sort out the good guys from the bad guys at a crime scene. This year, the bill was signed into law in May by Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican and a gun owner.

The governor and the bill’s supporters say those who will be openly carrying are law-abiding citizens, all of whom received their concealed-carry license after taking a firearms training course and passing a criminal background check by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The average age of a license holder is 51.

The law prohibits concealed or unconcealed firearms in a handful of places, including government buildings, schools and bars. Most businesses, however, must decide on their own how to handle those openly carrying.

Beverly’s officials said they welcomed Hull and his guests, but planned to ask them to show their handgun licenses. Downtown, managers at the Bricktown Brewery planned to post a “no weapons allowed” sign.

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