Oklahoma quietly enters the open-carry arena
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, November 02, 2012
11/02/12 at 7:12 AM
Find more on open carry: Read the Tulsa World’s complete coverage of Oklahoma’s open carry law.
Editorial: Stay calm, respect law.
OWASSO - Bruce Barnard felt a little bit exposed when he left the house Thursday morning with his .40 caliber Glock 24L strapped to his side for all to see.
"It just felt strange because every time you walked out before, it was stuck in your pocket," Barnard said.
By the time he got to Trails End BBQ with his wife Thursday afternoon, he was more relaxed, especially when nearly 30 other people openly carrying handguns came in for lunch.
The Oklahoma law allowing licensed individuals to openly carry firearms went into effect at midnight Wednesday night, making Oklahoma the 44th state to allow some form of open carry. The nearly 142,000 individuals with handgun licenses in the state, or about 4 percent of the population, can now carry openly with some regulations and exceptions.
Several people said they had been to public places that allow firearms Thursday morning to see what the reaction would be. There hasn't been much of one, they said.
"I had a couple of double looks, but that was about it," said Gary Stiner of Broken Arrow. He said he went and filled up at a QuikTrip and ran some other errands, but most people didn't notice at all.
Spokesman Michael Thornbrugh said he had not heard of any issues related to open carry at QuikTrip stores in Oklahoma.
"We're no different than any other business. We wish there were no weapons period," Thornbrugh said.
In QuikTrip stores in other states where open carry is allowed, "it's never been an issue," he said. "We've been doing this too long and nothing has ever happened."
Tulsa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Maj. Shannon Clark said that the dispatch center serving the county, Tulsa and other surrounding communities had no calls related to a person with a gun as of 3 p.m. Thursday.
Bryan Hull, co-director of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association, said he was at a diner in Oklahoma City at midnight with about 40 others carrying their handguns openly. Were it not for the media attention in the cramped booths, few people would have noticed, he said.
"We were all sitting there concealed and at some point, I looked at my cell phone and I said, 'Hey guys, look at this, it's midnight. Welcome to open carry in Oklahoma,' " Hull said.
The law stipulates that people who want to openly carry must first obtain a handgun license, which includes a background check. The handgun cannot be longer than 16 inches in total length and it must be .45 caliber or smaller. No guns are allowed into government buildings, public meetings, bars, schools, college campuses and other places where signs specifically ban weapons.
But at Trails End BBQ, the mood was jovial as the people ate their lunch, pistols at their sides. Many cheered when Hull welcomed them to the new reality.
For Nicholas Vest of Broken Arrow, it was a family affair. He was there with his wife and two small children and his parents.
"We just do everything together," Vest said.
He said it was also a good opportunity to further educate his children about gun safety, to make sure that his children respect the power of weapons.
"Because we have a gun, we have to let them know. It wouldn't be responsible to not teach them," Vest said.
Vest's mother, Daisy Vest, was carrying a handgun for the first time Thursday. She had received her permit months ago but waited until she felt comfortable to carry her handgun. On Thursday, it was still concealed while she continued to gain confidence.
"I still want to be very familiar with my weapon," Daisy Vest said. "It felt very serious to me to make this decision and I'm grateful for the opportunity to exercise my rights."
She said that she more than likely will conceal her handgun more often than carry it openly but having that option gives her more freedom.
Now that it is allowed, Nicholas Vest said, he will openly carry more often than not. His reasons are two-fold.
"I'm exercising my rights," he said. "I'm taking action to protect myself and I want that to be known."
Most of the people at Thursday's lunch gave the same reason.
Stiner said that open carry will also help protect him in case his handgun is exposed accidentally, which he said has come close to happening to him before.
Many also agreed that in several months, most people won't be as concerned when they see someone with a handgun as the first time it happens.
"We very much look forward to showing the public in Oklahoma that lawful carry of a handgun is not something to be afraid of," Hull said. "The more people see this out in the open and nothing bad happens, the more it's going to help them overcome their fear."
Original Print Headline: Sidearms for all to see
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Garrison Infiel of Bristow sits down to eat with other gun owners, including Bart Pickens of Sand Springs and Brandon Bruski of Owasso (right), during a lunch at Trails End BBQ in Owasso on Thursday. The lunch was a meeting for people who started carrying their guns on the day the new open carry law took effect. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Bryan Hull of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association speaks to a crowd, including Bob and Daisy Vest (background) and their grandson Trevor, 9 months, during a lunch at Trails End BBQ in Owasso on Thursday. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Standing outside a filled meeting room to eat dessert, Kent Dillingham of Owasso listens to Bryan Hull speak to the crowd at Trails End BBQ in Owasso on Thursday. The lunch was a meeting place for people who started carrying their guns openly in accordance with the new law that took effect on Thursday. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Bryan Hull: "We very much look forward to showing the public in Oklahoma that lawful carry of a handgun is not something to be afraid of. The more people see this out in the open and nothing bad happens, the more it's going to help them overcome their fear."