New batch of Oklahoma gun bills poised to make deep impact
Other gun legislation:
SB 161 – Created to entice a number of firearm manufacturing industries into relocating to Oklahoma. It outlines that any firearm or ammunition manufactured within the state boundaries of Oklahoma is exempt from the stringent Federal regulations and restrictions. Semi-Automatic assault weapons would remain legal in Oklahoma in the face of proposed federal restrictions.
SB 263 – Contains legislation with regard to firearm and badge custody of a retired government employee. Members of any Oklahoma Law Enforcement branch, with proper review by authoritative figures, will be eligible to continue their ownership of their service issued firearms and badge. The widowed spouses or children are also eligible for custody in the event of the death.
SB 394 – Provides rights to the District Attorney or retired D.A to carry a firearm anywhere within the boundaries of the state, for use of self-defense only. The D.A is only eligible if he or she completes a state mandated firearms training course. The Assistant District Attorney may carry a firearm as well, if he or she receives permission from the current D.A, in conjunction with firearms training.
Oklahoma lawmakers are firing back against U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed gun controls with a barrage of legislation designed to expand gun rights, not restrict them.
At the Capitol in Oklahoma City, lawmakers have introduced more than 50 bills to protect the right to bear arms and create loopholes to current and proposed federal laws. The authors have offered the bills for consideration in the 2013 legislative session that began Feb. 4.
The bills include proposals to exempt Oklahoma-made guns from federal restrictions. Other measures would deputize school officials and permit district attorneys to carry firearms.
At least one bill has already cleared its first hurdle: on Feb. 6, the House Public Safety Committee voted 8-3 to approve HB 1062, which would allow public school teachers and administrators to carry loaded handguns to school if they complete a basic firearm course.
Although the legislature has tried in the past to allow guns on college campuses, none of the bills introduced this session contains provisions to permit that.
OU political science professor Keith Gaddie said much of the backlash appears to be an attempt by lawmakers to publicly voice their support of gun rights.
“Politicians get to make their constituents feel better by saying they are engaging the issue,” Gaddie said. “They get to get votes by appearing to respond to the issue. They will never be enforced and everyone will just go along.”
Gaddie said he’s not convinced that all of the president’s national proposals will be adopted or that Oklahoma’s legislature will approve many of the gun bills introduced this year.
“I don’t think a ban’s coming,” Gaddie said. “The president has done everything he can with executive orders, which means he is doing everything he can with existing law. Congress is not going to pass anything. It won’t happen.”
Among the bills introduced in Oklahoma is a measure by State Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, that would allow elementary and secondary teachers and administrators to carry firearms to school campuses.
The bill does not allow teachers to carry their guns into the school but would let them keep their guns in their vehicles. Under the law, that is still considered to be on their person, Cockroft said.
“A while ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a car is an extension of oneself, meaning if these teachers had a firearm they could carry it on their person, or in their car,” Cockroft said.
While this may be true, keeping a gun in a vehicle is not as secure as keeping it in a secure home or carrying it in a holster, Gaddie said. Extending gun rights to cars would cause a complex debate that could create more harm than intended.
While new laws might provide rights to educators who desire firearms, some educators without guns say they would feel less protected if Cockroft’s proposal became law.
“We shouldn’t fight violence with violence,“ said Candace Robinette, a second-grade teacher at Hilldale Elementary in the Putnam City School District. “I think we need to have campus police at every school.”
Robinette said she has no fear for her own safety, but worries about her students.
“My kids have been exposed to guns but not positively,” she said. “They hear about and deal with shootings pretty regularly.”
Cockroft said children should be taught about firearms for their own benefit.
“My measure would not bring guns into schools,” he said. “But, to decrease violence, we must educate children early about guns, that way we can be preventative and protective to outside violence or incidents.”
OU secondary education senior Ashleigh Amaro said what she is learning now is how to teach children not to operate a firearm.
“We are nowhere near trained for something like that, and just getting a certification that takes several hours isn’t going to prepare anybody for a situation like what happened at Sandy Hook,” she said.
Cockroft’s proposal would exclude higher education. Several years ago, legislation to allow guns on college campuses was defeated after higher education officials, including OU President David Boren, expressed their opinions.
That legislation was proposed by State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who said the timing wasn’t right to introduce such a drastic change then.
However, Murphey said that recent shootings like those in Colorado, Texas and Connecticut have increased support in Oklahoma for an expansion of gun rights so that people are in a better position to defend themselves when confronted with armed attackers.
“All of these acts of violence happened in gun-free zones,” Murphey said. “They happened in places where people did not have the ability to protect themselves.”
Murphey suggested that if someone would have been carrying a gun, events might have been different.
He said he doesn’t think higher education will be supportive of these measures in the future, but many Oklahoma citizens support the Second Amendment and will see their elected officials support their constituents’ belief.
Gaddie said these occasions of mass murder are so rare it just doesn’t make sense to make broad policy changes based on such events.
“They are like asteroids, causing great impact but occurring very rarely,” Gaddie said.
Cockroft and Murphey said they think if Obama and Congress tighten gun laws to make it harder for people to acquire firearms, Oklahoma will rebuke the measure like it did with Obama’s national healthcare initiative and challenge it in court.
“Anytime people can take full advantage of their rights, that’s a good thing,” Cockroft said.
Gaddie said the rights legislatures may be trying to protect are not properly being interpreted in the context the founding fathers originally wrote them.
“People get confused when it comes to the Second Amendment,” Gaddie said. “It was originally created to stabilize militias nationally to fight foreign forces outside of the U.S.”
He said he can’t predict what will happen in the Oklahoma legislature but knows the ultimate decision will be made federally and thinks that most people inside and outside of the Capitol are scared of what they can’t control.
“If we were to eliminate gun homicides, we would go from 10th to the 94th most dangerous nation in the world to live in,” Gaddie said, “We would then be among one of the safest places to live in the entire world.”