OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Protestors flooded the Capitol steps Monday morning to voice their concerns of needing more gun safety measures. Meanwhile, one state legislator says gun rights need to be expanded.
“As a gay American, I know firsthand that gun violence is hitting our LGBTQ communities at high rates. We’ve seen that through mass shootings like the Pulse nightclub shooting and what happened recently in Club Q in Colorado Springs,” said Ken Gonzales, a volunteer with Everytown for Gun Safety. “It hits home for me because I know that many of my community members are targets to gun violence and it’s important for me that we are able to safely provide opportunities for people to securely to safe to securely store their guns.”
A mass shooting at the Orlando, Florida club in June 2016 left 49 people dead and 53 wounded. In 2022, five were killed and 25 were wounded at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
Gonzales told KFOR when the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened, he didn’t feel comfortable going out in public.
“Immediately fear when Pulse happened. I was living in D.C. and it was Pride weekend then. My initial thought was that I can’t go to this festival because I’m worried that this is going to happen in that place as well, that the shooting would happen there. A friend of mine, he told me, you know, don’t let don’t let gun violence push you back into the closet,” stated Gonzales.
A Moms Demand Action volunteer, Cacky Poarch told KFOR she knows of people who have taken their own lives with a gun, so this also hits close to home for her.
“I do know a lot of people that have been affected by suicide and unfettered access to firearms makes it so much easier. We’ve seen since COVID an increase in suicides among young people and there is a correlation about how deadly it can be if you have access to a firearm,” added Poarch.
Poarch, Gonzales and dozens of others gathered at the Oklahoma Capitol Monday morning to share their stories and preach the need for change.
“We’re here to talk to our legislators about things like that and other bills that really we want to keep our citizens safe. You know, as a mom, I want to keep my kids safe,” said Poarch. “If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest nation on earth and we’re not. And so I think responsible gun laws, you know, responsible gun ownership correlates with responsible gun laws.”
However, Senator Nathan Dahm said more guns would make people more safe.
“Over 90% of mass shootings take place in gun-free zones because these criminals know that there’s going to be citizens there that are disarmed. If you look at what they’ve written before, they’ve committed these mass atrocities, these attacks, they’ve written that they chose their targets because they knew there wouldn’t be guns there for people to be able to fight back and protect themselves,” explained Dahm.
Dahm is in support of expanding gun owner rights.
He told KFOR he wants to eliminate gun-free zones such as in schools. He wants to allow ride share drivers, teachers, and those on a college campus to carry.
Dahm also said those who visit the Capitol shouldn’t have to disarm themselves.
Dahm mentioned medical marijuana users should also be allowed to have a concealed carry permit which is something else he is currently pushing for.
“Rather than trying to limit law abiding citizens, we need to make sure that law abiding citizens can protect themselves,” said Dahm.
Dahm stated Oklahoma is already a safe state, but to make it safer would mean allowing for more guns.
“If you look at the statistics, 400M+ guns in this country right now. On average, there’s 50,000 gun related deaths. Over half of those are suicides,” said Dahm. “90% of firearms are never used to cause death or to be involved in any sort of crime or anything. We have a lot of guns that people are using legally, and people choose to focus on criminals that don’t follow the law anyways.”
According to Gun Violence Archive, there have been 7,529 gun-related deaths in the U.S. since the start of 2023.
3,239 of those are reported as homicides and 4,290 are suicides.
Gun Violence Archive reports 103 mass shootings have happened in the U.S. this year so far.
Poarch said the statistics on gun violence are alarming, so having responsible gun laws is something “we desperately need in this state.”
“[Gun safety advocates] need to get more informed on, on the issues, not just look at the talking points, really think through the process of the things that they’re claiming of if they would actually stop criminals from committing any acts because they’ll talk about gun registries, they’ll talk about waiting periods, they’ll talk about all these different things and those harm law abiding citizens,” said Dahm.
Dahm said he tried talking through different scenarios and his perspective on gun rights in a recent interview with Jon Stewart, but a lot of it was “edited out.”
“People on the left say that Jon Stewart eviscerated me. People on the right say they’re thankful that I stood up and was able to try to bring that, even though he kept interrupting me and they they edited the footage and removed a lot of my answers and those types of things. I don’t know that it necessarily changed a lot of people’s minds on either side of it. One part that they did keep in he dismissed. On the fatherlessness issue that we have in this country, 7% of the entire world’s population experiences fatherlessness. But in America, that’s 24%. We have three times the rest of the world average for fatherlessness and when you look at the statistics on those that are committing crimes, gun crimes as well, the majority of them come from fatherless homes.”Senator Nathan Dahm (Broken Arrow, R)
Dahm said there’s no one solution to gun violence, but there are ways to prevent it including gun safety classes for students which would “stop accidental discharges” and work on the mental health crisis.
He added the Constitution talks about an individual’s rights, so legislators need to maintain their focus on the people.
Gun safety advocates say they’re going to continue lobbying and hope their legislators will think twice before voting for a pro-gun bill.
“We want to make sure that we can create a world free of gun violence for everyone,” said Gonzales. “We want to work together with legislators, whether it’s for bills this session or future sessions. We want to make sure that we can continue just building on the progress we’ve made of building the volunteer networks across the country and in passing the bills to make sure that we can end gun violence in America.”
Poarch said Moms Demand Action has 10M volunteers nationwide and thousands in Oklahoma, including gun owners.
“We absolutely will advocate today, tomorrow and next year to have those [gun safety bills] heard so that we can increase safety in this state,” said Poarch.