OKLAHOMA CITY - The chief of the state's largest police force is coming out against legislation that would allow all eligible gun owners to open carry without a license, a permit or training.
"It just doesn't make much sense, and I think it poses a risk to officers and the community," said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty. "There needs to be some accountability. There needs to be some structure that we have in allowing people to carry firearms."
House Bill 3098 sits in a conference committee after easily passing the house and senate.
It would permit anyone age 21 and over who is legally allowed to buy a gun to carry it unconcealed.
Citty doesn't mind the gun laws as they currently stand, but he said this new measure "takes it too far."
The chief fears for the "unintended consequences" of the legislation, pointing out it will be more difficult for his officers to control gang activity.
Members of gangs who haven't yet been convicted of crimes will have an easier time obtaining and displaying weapons in public, Citty said.
Plus, enforcement of other laws would be tougher, particularly in emotionally charged and high-stress situations.
"If you have just anybody out there carrying a gun for any reason, it makes it much more difficult for officers to determine who should carry it and who shouldn't," he said. "I think this is just carrying it a bit too far."
More than 25 groups and organizations voiced their opposition to the legislation, fearing their ability to control who can and can't carry guns on their property and at their events.
That list includes the State Troopers Association and the OSBI, which says it will miss out on millions of dollars it normally collects in licensing fees.
But, State Rep. Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield) said the legislation is about lifting restrictions on a Constitutional right.
"I believe the Second Amendment is an iteration of our God-given right to self-defense, and a right does not require asking permission," he said. "It does not require mandated training, and it does not require paying a tax or a fee to the government."
Not that Coody doesn't support training.
He believes responsible gun owners will continue to seek practice and expects the legislation to have a much smaller noticeable effect than anticipated.
"I believe responsible gun owners will get the training that they should have, because they're putting their own lives at risk as well as those they're with if they prevent themselves as armed and they don't know what they're doing," he said. "Anyone who doesn't use a weapon should never pick one up, but to mandate training doesn't stop those who care little about what the government says or what the law says."
The Fraternal Order of Police has not taken a formal position on the legislation, but Mark Nelson of Lodge 123 says the membership is largely divided on the measure.
Urban officers are more likely to oppose the bill, Nelson said, where rural officers are more likely to support it because other states that have passed laws haven't had noticeable problems with public safety.
"All of the other states that do this have no problems, no elevation of gun violence," said Coody. "This bill simply allows people who feel their life may be in danger to have an avenue to carry without a license, without the onerous process of asking permission and paying a fee and waiting for bureaucracy to give them permission to carry a license."