OKLAHOMA CITY — They came with pistols on their hips, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns slung over their shoulders and a mind to celebrate what they emphasized is a right to carry firearms in public.
A right, they say, was taken away by the new state of Oklahoma in 1907 but returned — for the most part — on Nov. 1, 2019.
Between 250 and 300 people joined leaders of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association to celebrate activation of the so-called constitutional carry bill, House Bill 2597, authored by House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt last May.
“So how is your liberty today?” Oklahoma 2A president Don Spencer yelled to the applauding and shouting crowd. “Feeling pretty good?”
“It’s been 112 years,” he said. “The very first gun law in the new state of Oklahoma was, ‘you shall not carry a pistol, rifle, or shotgun on or about your person or in a purse, loaded or unloaded.’ Today that has changed.”
Spencer and other members of the gun-rights group recognized several legislators who played key roles in the passage of the bill this year, including Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, who introduced a bill that passed the previous session that was vetoed by then-Gov. Mary Fallin.
“It’s a great day and a historic day,” Dahm told the crowd. “Throughout this process we faced committee chairmen who refused to hear a bill to restore our constitutional rights, or a Republican governor who broke her word, violated a campaign promise and vetoed the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms ... Today we celebrate being victorious.”
Oklahoma joins 14 other states that have passed constitutional carry with the new law, which erases a requirement to pay $100 or $200 to obtain a license, complete a basic training course and submit fingerprints. It also spelled out or clarified other aspects of the law regarding when or where firearms could be carried or stored, such as being locked in and stored out-of-sight inside a vehicle on school grounds.
Friday’s rally drew people like Douglas Tully of Chickasha who attended with a James River M-14 semi-automatic rifle in .308 caliber over his shoulder and a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistol on his hip.
“I love this. I came from Maryland where the laws are backwards. This rifle is banned there,” he said in reference to the .308. “They concocted a list of scary guns, then made a bunch of exceptions for certain models and calibers.”
Tully said he had little interest in politics until the government tried to tell him what kinds of guns he could own when they were so similar to other “legal” guns others owned.
“I found (Oklahoma 2A) on Facebook and started following them and got involved,” he said.
Leslie NesSmith of Edmond, a former legislative candidate and podcaster of Me, Myself & Liberty, watched the proceedings with an AR-15 slug across her back.
“It’s exciting we finally got it done,” she said.
Her .556 AR with the magazine clearly filled with rounds was a celebratory presence for the day. Carrying a rifle like that isn’t very comfortable and most won’t do it on an everyday basis, she said.
“Most people won’t carry a rifle like this unless it is for something like this event or a Fourth of July,” she said. “You can shoot off fireworks every day but people don’t do it. But, you don’t have a right unless you exercise it.”