Oklahoma’s new open carry law, a law that ultimately only promotes more gun violence, goes into effect today, which means people will be packing heat in full view on the streets and in businesses of the state.
It’s a terrible, senseless law that was passed by the legislature last session and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. It lacks basic common sense, and it will lead to more shootings and deaths. It shows the continued and craven political influence of the National Rifle Association, and its Second-Amendment obsession. On a pragmatic level, it will represent a real challenge to law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens, who, at any given moment, are going to have to immediately determine intent and motivation of those who choose to show their guns.
Essentially, the law allows people with a concealed-carry license to openly display their loaded or unloaded weapons in a holster. People can’t bring weapons into state buildings, schools, bars and sports arenas, and businesses will have to choose whether to allow customers to carry guns inside.
I was one of the few people who consistently wrote in protest against the new law as it came under consideration. You can find some of my posts here and here and here. I won’t rehash my arguments, but here are my observations now that open carry is a reality here:
- Many people in Oklahoma are going to be frightened at any given moment in their day when they suddenly encounter someone-in a business, on a sidewalk, etc.-openly carrying a gun. Guns kill people every day in this country, we all know that, and while I’m in favor of guns for self-defense, open display of guns will terrify some people. This has probably already happened today as I write this. It’s senseless.
- Some people will choose to leave a business or not frequent a business that allows open carry on its premises.
- A media report recently discussed how 911 police dispatchers are getting trained to ask more questions when people call reporting someone is carrying gun. This could add confusion to real emergency calls and could delay response times to life and death situations.
- What seems unclear to me is whether homeowners can get someone arrested for openly carrying weapons on their property. In other words, what if someone who isn’t a law enforcement officer, say, someone dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and carrying a gun walks up to your front door and rings the doorbell? What is your recourse? Argue with a police dispatcher over the person’s intent? Law enforcement authorities need to clarify this issue.
We live in an extremely violent country. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence notes that 97,820 people are shot in America each year. That’s 268 per day. The organization notes, “On the whole, guns are more likely to raise the risk of injury than to confer protection.” A series of shootings across the country in recent years, including the recent tragedy at a Colorado movie theater, have left dozens dead and wounded. There’s absolutely no question that guns kill people. We need to get them off the streets not encourage people to put them on the streets, which is considered a radical idea here in Oklahoma these days.