A law eliminating the need for a state permit to carry a gun in public goes into effect Friday.
That means rudimentary training and background checks are no longer required. Against common sense, the state Legislature has decided that practically anyone age 21 and over can carry a handgun, rifle or shotgun in most public places.
An effort to put the issue to a statewide vote started late and fell short. A lawmaker who opposes permitless carry challenged the law in court on technical grounds, but, those arguments were rejected by an Oklahoma County district judge earlier this week.
In our experience, most Oklahoma gun owners are reasonable people. They have guns for hunting, sport or self-defense, and keep them properly secured when not in use. They don’t have a need to display their weapons in public. They respect the deadly potential guns carry and don’t take foolish chances with them.
But the fact that most people follow the rules of common sense doesn’t make it a good idea to allow more guns in public places. Common sense is common, but it isn’t universal, which is why we have limited gun laws. Like all liberties, the Second Amendment is subject to limited restrictions in the name of safe society.
Before the law changed, a police officer observing someone with a gun in public could ask to see the person’s permit. A person with a gun could be presumed not to be a felon, not to be in the nation illegally and not to have ever been judged mentally unfit. They could be presumed to be 21 years old (or 18 if they were in the military) and to have had some basic training on gun safety and the state gun laws. Simply having the permit showed obedience to those laws.
A person with a gun and no permit had a problem.
Under the new law, that situation is reversed. The police officer has no reason to question a person carrying a gun down the sidewalk, into a public park or into many businesses.
Does that make you feel any safer? We don’t.
Permitless carry was a bad idea. It makes it harder for the police to tell the good guys from the bad guys in a crisis situation, and it increases the potential for accidental shootings and gun hijackings. It introduces the potential for legal guns where they have no place and makes everyone less safe. We hope the gun owners of Oklahoma will get the training they need, leave their guns secure at home, thus showing more sense than the Legislature.