It’s highly disappointing that another legislative bill loosening what few gun restrictions we have here to a new ridiculous level is moving through the Oklahoma House and Senate by huge voting margins.
— Tulsa World (@tulsaworld) April 21, 2016
It’s a sign that conservatives, who dominate state government, still remain confident they’re empowered politically enough to pass extremist legislation, which doesn’t bode well for what might happen to next year’s budget or even what might happen in the upcoming November election.
The state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall for next fiscal year and some state agencies have already taken steep cuts because of a revenue failure this year. Higher education, for example, has already had its overall state allocation reduced by $112 million and faces more cuts next year.
But if you can afford to buy a gun in this economic downturn caused by conservative ideology, well, it looks like you’re going to be able to walk around and display it openly even if you haven’t had one bit of training or even have a permit.
House Bill 3098 easily passed the Senate on a 37-9 vote Wednesday after earlier passing the House on 73-15 vote. The bill, in its present form, would allow anyone 21 or older who hasn’t been convicted of a felony crime to openly carry a gun without receiving the training required for concealed carry and without getting a permit.
The bill was opposed by several groups of people in Oklahoma, including The Oklahoma City Thunder organization, public safety officials, business leaders, universities and others. In other words, legislators don’t feel any need to listen to law enforcement officials or the state’s intellectuals or its business community. The yes votes were cast as an ideological statement about the Second Amendment or an election-year strategy or some combination of both. The bottom line is that it creates the potential for more guns on the streets, and our state leaders know that.
Legislators pointed out that the bill doesn’t allow people to openly carry in any new places where Oklahomans can’t already openly carry their firearms, but opponents know where it all leads: Guns everywhere, from classrooms to hospitals to concerts to nightclubs to put-in-your-favorite-place-here. Hyperbole? Who can really deny this legislation seems aimed more at getting guns on the streets than it does at protecting anyone’s constitutional rights?
The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course, supports the bill, which means Republican and even some Democratic politicians have to support it as well because of the deep-seated gun culture here in Oklahoma.
I have long argued that these new pro-gun laws in Oklahoma aren’t some return of the Wild West here. In fact, many cities and towns associated with the Wild West on an historical level, such as Dodge City, Kansas, actually had much tighter gun restrictions than what we have now in Oklahoma, although such historical comparisons have their limitations. What we do have is one powerful organization, the NRA, dictating policy to the conservative movement, which, in order to win votes, creates fear in people on multiple levels. Conservatives want to instill the idea that the federal government wants to take away guns from people, which has never been the case.
It’s difficult to challenge the purity of a vote by a particular legislator but the Second Amendment “purists” seem every bit as frightening as a legislator who voted yes based on political calculation. One legislator was quoted this way in the local media about the vote: “We have a government that wants to take our constitutional rights away from us. This is push back.” The government is NOT trying to take away anyone’s guns, but I have no doubt this conservative politician probably believes it.
On Thursday, the Senate also passed a resolution, HJR 1009, that would allow voters in November to decide to further loosen gun regulations or their application. Both measures are now placed before conference committees for further review.