Open carry law goes into effect Nov. 1
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 7:32 AM
Learn more about the topic, read a Q&A, see how legislators voted
and watch a video of advocates
discussing open carry.
There might not be much of a change Thursday when Oklahoma's open carry law goes into effect.
The new law will allow permit-holders to carry their handguns out in the open. That could lead to more people calling 911 to report a person with a gun, according to law enforcement officials. And more people have been obtaining permits because of attention to the issue.
But, if anecdotal and statistical evidence from other states is any indication, those could be the only big differences in Oklahoma on Thursday, the date the open-carry law goes into effect.
More than 140,000 Oklahomans - about 3 percent of the population - already have their concealed-carry permits, and the new law will allow them to carry their handguns in the open.
Oklahoma becomes the 44th state to allow some form of open carry. Minnesota was the most recent state to allow residents to openly carry firearms. Before 2003 in Minnesota, carrying a handgun in public was illegal, whether it was concealed or openly carried, said Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriff's Association.
A 2003 law made it legal to conceal or openly carry a handgun with a permit in Minnesota - a change much more dramatic than Oklahoma's new law, which adds open carry to already legalized concealed carry permits.
Since 2003, more than 109,000 people in Minnesota - about 2 percent of the population - were granted carry permits, said Jill Oliveira, public information officer for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
In the nine years since allowing concealed and open carry, Minnesota has had just five deaths from shootings by permit holders, Oliveira said. One shooting was found to be a murder while the other four were ruled justified, she said.
Franklin said the low statistics are a result of how the state implemented the new law, emphasizing strict guidelines for instructors during the permit process.
"I think it goes back to our training, our education and our instructor pool," Franklin said. "We don't have inappropriate shootings and people carrying weapons when they shouldn't be."
John Pierce, founder of Virginia-based advocacy group OpenCarry.org, said the major concern is that people will be uneasy around other people they see carrying a gun.
Pierce said that argument doesn't hold up because under the old law, the person could be carrying a concealed gun while presenting the same amount of risk.
"The criminals do not open carry," Pierce said. "They don't want the attention that open carry would bring."
On the other side of Pierce's group are national gun control organizations such as the Brady Campaign. They argue open-carry laws are about gun owners making a statement and not about decreasing crime.
"The open carrying of firearms in public places is inherently threatening and intimidating and poses risks to those nearby, to law enforcement and to the community," according to the Brady Campaign's website.
"Everyone should have the right to sit in a coffee shop or a restaurant with their families, including their children, without being confronted with the threatening presence of openly displayed handguns and assault weapons."
Calls to the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign seeking comment for this story were not returned.
"Everyone on the anti-gun fight always predicts that there will be mass panic," Pierce said. "I open carry everywhere I am legally able to do so and people just don't notice. People don't panic."
Because Oklahoma already has a concealed-carry permit law, Pierce said the only noticeable effect will be more people getting their permits because of attention brought to the issue.
"All you're really doing is decriminalizing your jacket falling open," he said. "Really the only thing I would expect to see in Oklahoma is an increase in interest in the topic, with an increase of people applying for permits."
Franklin said most permit-holders in Minnesota choose not to open carry because they simply don't want to advertise to criminals that they have a weapon.
"Don't carry in the open even if you can," Franklin said. "You become the target. ... Virtually, almost everyone (among permit holders) does conceal carry. There are a few that don't. It really turned out to be not much of an issue."
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he has not seen any problems among permit-holders in Oklahoma.
"They haven't been a danger to the public," Jordan said. "They haven't been a danger to our officers."
Jordan said he has spoken with officials in states where open carry is allowed, which helped ease some of his concerns. There haven't been many problems tied directly to open carry elsewhere, he said.
Police do have other concerns with the law, Jordan said. One is the expected increase in calls reporting a person carrying a gun. For those situations, officers and dispatchers will have to further assess the situation to determine if the person is behaving in a threatening manner or simply openly carrying.
Franklin said Minnesota law enforcement had to add some training for officers and dispatchers on dealing with citizens when a gun is involved.
"It has created an issue for our law enforcement officers that we have to go back to training," Franklin said. "You have to treat it like a felony crime, but you have to be aware that it could simply be a citizen with a weapon at their side."
In the majority
On Thursday, Oklahoma joins 43 other states in allowing open carry. Those states allow open carry either through specific legislation such as Oklahoma has or through no legislative restrictions, according to information on the websites of the Brady Campaign and OpenCarry.org.
According to OpenCarry.org, six states - Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, New York and Texas - prohibit open carry. Of the 44 states that allow open carry, Oklahoma (as of Nov. 1) and 14 others require a permit.
In Oklahoma, guns still are not allowed at meetings of elected and government bodies; prisons, jails and other detention facilities; schools, colleges and technical schools; bars, taverns and night clubs; and arenas during sporting events.
Also, businesses and property owners can legally prohibit someone from carrying a gun onto their premises.
Open carry Q&A
Who can apply for a handgun license?
A person must be a U.S. citizen, 21 years old and Oklahoma resident.
People not eligible are those who have a felony conviction or have been adjudicated as a delinquent; have attempted suicide or had a condition related to mental instability within the past 10 years; are currently being treated for a mental illness; are subject to an outstanding felony warrant; have made a false or misleading statement on the application. Also, misdemeanor offenses making a person ineligible include assault and battery causing physical injury to the victim; a second, subsequent or aggravated assault and battery; stalking; illegal drug use or possession; act of domestic abuse; and violation of a victim protection order.
What guns are allowed to be carried openly with a permit?
If you qualified using a semi-automatic, the license allows you to carry a Derringer, revolver or semi-automatic. If you qualified with a revolver, the license allows for carrying only a revolver.
Do you have to carry your license when you're carrying a gun?
Yes. The law requires a person have the handgun license and a state-issued photo identification while carrying.
If you carry, is a holster - or some other accessory - required; or can you simply tuck it in your belt or carry it in your hand?
The law states the weapon must be in a "belt or shoulder holster," which leaves open to interpretation whether that means an ordinary belt or belt holster. OSBI general counsel Jimmy Bunn Jr. said it appears tucking a gun into a waist belt would be legal under the current language, but he "would never advise someone doing that."
What do authorities suggest you do if you see someone carrying a gun but you don't think they have a license?
Only law enforcement officials have the right to request viewing a person's handgun license. Residents do not have the authority to demand a person present a license. A person can call local law enforcement officials to report a suspicion of a crime. Each law enforcement department is deciding how to handle those calls, Bunn said.
What happens if a person is found carrying a gun without a permit?
The person can be arrested and charged with several crimes, according to Tulsa police. The most likely charges would be carrying a concealed weapon (misdemeanor), transporting a loaded firearm (misdemeanor), or possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony (felony). Some charges could be met regardless of the permit status of the individual.
Original Print Headline: Few changes likely with gun law
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367