Oklahoma should not become an “open carry” state for several reasons, but it’s probably going to happen.
House Bill 2522, sponsored by state Rep. Steve Martin, a Bartlesville Republican, would allow Oklahomans to carry weapons in public. HB 2522 has already passed a committee vote, and Gov. Mary Fallin has indicated she supports open carry in principle. An open-carry bill has actually been approved by the legislature in the past, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Brad Henry.
The national open-carry movement is fueled by the false claims that there’s too much gun control in this country and that there’s some type of stealth movement to actually take guns away from people. It’s also fueled by a type of Second Amendment obsession that is ultimately unhealthy for all American citizens who want to feel safe. This obsession results in slogans like this one:“A Right Unexercised is a Right Lost.”
The United States is well known throughout the world as a place with a high rate of gun violence, which includes murder and suicide. Guns are also used as threats in robberies and rapes. They are also a major part of gang culture. (Here’s some statistics.) The term “school shooting”-just last week three students were gunned down at their school in Ohio-has become a part of the American lexicon because of the widespread availability of guns.
None of this, of course, will deter the open-carry supporters.
Here are some reasons why open carry is NOT a good idea for Oklahoma:
- The supporters of these bills have offered no good, practical reasons to have open carry in Oklahoma. Why do we need it? Is it simply an exercise in ideology? Supporters say few people in Oklahoma would probably choose to openly carry their weapons. So why create a law that has the potential to lead to more gun violence if it’s not even going to be used that much?
- Open carry could lead to more accidental shootings. What if a gun is not properly holstered?
- People will get frightened when they see a group of people walking down the street carrying weapons. The fact is that guns scare people. Imagine walking to a restaurant in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown and encountering several men with weapons. Open carry has a real potential to hurt the state’s image and its tourist industry.
- A person openly displaying a weapon will leave themselves more open to criminals, who might try to steal the gun. This could lead to more gun violence.
- Police officers responding to a crime scene might have problems discerning culpability if people are carrying weapons around the area.
- A national study has shown that a vast majority of women, in particular, are opposed to open carry.
Those who oppose open carry, like myself, have often described it as a return to the Wild West, but actually, according to one scholar, “Frontier towns — places like Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge — actually had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation.”
Law professor Adam Winkler, writing in the Huffington Post, argues:
Although some in the gun community insist that more guns equals less crime, in the Wild West they discovered that gun control can work. Gun violence in these towns was far more rare than we commonly imagine. Historians who’ve studied the numbers have determined that frontier towns averaged less than two murders a year. Granted, the population of these towns was small. Nevertheless, these were not places where duels at high noon were commonplace. In fact, they almost never occurred.
The point is that open-carry supporters have lost the common sense even practiced on the old frontier and are taking us into a new, frightening direction when it comes to guns.