Bill prohibiting open carrying of firearms in parks, zoos, heads to Senate

OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislation prohibiting where someone can openly carry firearms in the state sailed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Wednesday at the same time the Senate was hearing the state's permitless carry legislation, signed by the governor hours later.

Oklahoma's so-called "Constitutional Carry" legislation, HB 2597, was passed by the Senate Wednesday and became the first law signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt since taking office. As the Senate was hearing the legislation, the House of Representatives was also hearing legislation that would curtail where people could openly carry firearms.

The bill, HB 2010, would prohibit openly carrying a firearm in parks and zoos. Republican House leadership said the permitless carry trailer bill was part of a compromise with Tulsa, Oklahoma City and the National Rifle Association.

"That was part of a deal cut with the Senate, wanting to deal with parks. Currently, you can open carry and conceal carry inside parks and zoos. The deal that was cut with Oklahoma City, Tulsa, the NRA and OK2A (Oklahoma Second Amendment Association), is to get rid of open carry in parks and zoos. Continue to allow conceal carry in parks and zoos," said House Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, who ran both bills. "That's part of the entire idea between why this constitutional carry bill is different than constitutional carry bills in years past, because there were significant concessions made by all parties to come up with something that's workable."

HB 2010 passed with near unanimous support, 94-0, and now heads to the Senate. While no one opposed the trailer bill, Democratic leadership said Thursday it's evident the permitless carry legislation went too far.

"What it told this caucus was that we're already seeing problems with the permitless carry legislation. and that it clearly went too far because we were getting this feedback from the Tulsa area and the Oklahoma city area, in terms of their public parks, and their zoos. And so what that bill did was to allow people to only have concealed carry in those areas. Not open carry," said Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman.

"But they still wouldn't have to have any permitting or training, sometimes no background checks. And so it just told us that the authors of the legislation agree that more guns make you safer, but by passage of that legislation, they're telling us that there are places you shouldn’t be carrying a gun, contrary of what they told us in the passage of the permitless carry bill," she added.

Permitless carry, which passed the Senate 40-6 primarily along party lines, allows for anyone age 21 or older to carry a firearm without a permit or training; 18 or over for veterans, active duty and reserve military personnel. Once it's enacted, it will also mean less funding for the state's investigative agency tasked with permit licensing.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation could see an average net loss of $4 million once the law goes into effect Nov. 1. Officials said licensing has generated about $6 million, with $2 million allocated to administering the program.

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