OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says law enforcement will have to accept "a new norm" under a bill signed into law allowing permitless carry.
House Bill 2597 passed the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday afternoon was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt hours later. The bill allows for anyone age 21 or over to carry a firearm without a permit. The age requirement for veterans, active duty, and reserve military personnel is 18 or over.
"I’ve been in law enforcement for 39 years. This will be a quite a bit different from what I’ve been used to for the course of my career," OSBI director Ricky Adams told News 4. "Both training wise for police officers in the field, how they’re going to react and respond to the public is something that they’ll be trained and talked about but public safety will adjust."
Adams said the exact depth of the impact the bill will have on the agency has yet to be seen, though they will likely have a better idea in the coming months. The bill does not take effect until November 1.
"There’s still going to be a license, a concealed carry license that people can get. That’s not going away. It will still be in effect. We have bills in the Legislature right now that we’re hoping to make that even more attractive to get your concealed carry permit and go out and get the training and things," he explained. "You still have the option to get training and we fully support that. I think regardless of where you stood on this, everybody supports that. I think that is a very important part of anybody that wants to own and handle a firearm, that they know how to do it."
Lawmakers say the agency could stand to lose millions.
"The figure I hear consistently is that licensing in Oklahoma generates about $6 million and about $2 million of that goes to the administration of the program, so that’s going to be a net loss to the state of about $4 million," Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City said. "I think anytime you’re looking at revenue to the state, there needs to be some concern about that. I have not heard anyone, any of the proponents indicate to me how they’re going to replace that."
Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman voted against the bill when it was presented on the House floor earlier this month and said they have not received a clear answer on how funding would be replaced.
"When it comes to an agency that’s essential like OSBI, it’s very concerning when we’re cutting their budget like that," Rep. Virgin said. "We’ll be advocating that OSBI be made whole but I don’t want to focus on money as the reason to oppose permit less carry but that’s certainly one of a number of reasons to oppose it."
Speaking with reporters Thursday, Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, who voted for the measure, said he has had conversations with OSBI.
"I will tell you I am a permit-carrier myself. Mine expires in 2023. I will be renewing mine. I believe there will be a lot of Oklahomans that will continue to renew theirs and also apply for them. If I’m going to across lines and a state that has that law that you have to be licensed, then I’m going to make sure my license stays current," Rep. Wallace said. " I think that we’ll need a year to see how the program works out. I wouldn’t be surprised if we do put some additional money there. Probably will not be the full request."
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City said he believes the possible loss would be less than $4 million.
"It’s really about 1.5 million dollars, but at the core of why they do that is to enforce the permits and to enforce the current laws that we have on the books on having to have a permit to carry that weapon either concealed or unconcealed so you no longer have to have that. There’s a lot less enforcement on, so their costs should go down," Sen. Treat. "I think the agencies become dependent on some revenue there. We’re in discussion with them about how much they really need but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the $4 million number that you’re hearing."