OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City's top cop is calling a signed legislation allowing permit-less carry a step in the wrong direction.
At a press conference Friday, Chief Bill Citty with the Oklahoma City Police Department said officers in the field will have to err on the side of caution once House Bill 2597 takes effect in November. The bill, signed into law Wednesday after passing overwhelmingly in the Oklahoma Senate and House, allows law abiding citizens 21-years-old and over to carry a firearm without a permit. The age requirement for veterans, active duty, and reserve military personnel is 18 or over.
"Either from homicides, accidental shootings, suicides, it’s bound to increase in a time when our aggravated assaults are already higher than they have been in a while," Chief Citty said. "This is the wrong direction."
Interactions between officers in the field and the public may change, Citty said.
"They [officers] don’t know who they’re approaching, especially depending on the area and the time of day. They have the right to ask, 'do you have a firearm?' he said. "They’re probably going to be asking the citizens a lot more times if they have a gun than they used to."
Citty also expressed concern for officers with the department's gang unit.
"There’s so many people out there out there that haven’t been convicted. They’re committing crimes and will be able to have guns with them and if we catch them and we know they’re gang members and we know they’re running with violent groups, we still can’t do anything about it. We can’t even take their gun. Got to give it back to them, and they’ll go on their way," he said. "What laws like this does, it increases the threat for officers."
Supporters of the legislation have long stressed training would no longer be required to carry a firearm; however, it does not stop anyone from seeking it. Federal background checks will still be mandatory to purchase a firearm and private property owners still have the right to allow or deny concealed or open carry on their premises.
"Every restriction that is currently in place where you can and cannot carry a firearm is still in place. That does not change. You still will not be able to carry a firearm on a college or a university campus or any other educational campus unless given that exemption by law," Senate majority floor leader Kim David, R-Porter said during the floor debate Wednesday where discussions of safety and law enforcement shared a battleground with the issue of individual rights.
Debating in opposition, Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman said the legislation will change the relationship between gun owners and law enforcement.
"This bill takes away a tool that law enforcement has trained on and is used to using in order to interact with gun owners in our community," Sen. Boren said. "This bill puts upon new training obligations. A new standard that they have to interact with gun owners and this is something that I personally and also in my capacity as a senator for Senate District 16 cannot support to make."
During her closing debate, Sen. David told the chamber, "I have many law enforcement friends, many public safety friends, and I maybe it’s because I don’t live in an urban area. I live in the country where my law enforcement officers and call me and they’re like, 'you know sadly enough we don’t get there for 20 or 30 minutes after an incident has already happened'. You’re kind of on your own in many places in rural Oklahoma when it comes to home safety."
The bill goes into effect November 1.