Oklahoma House committee to consider bill allowing gun owners to carry without a permit

HB 2951 would allow for the carrying of pistols, handguns, rifles without need of a license by someone who is a legal resident, 21 years of age or older, and not a convicted felon. (FILE)

In the wake of the Florida school shooting, the national – and local – debate has once again centered on gun control.

In Oklahoma, a bill introduced this week would allow people to carry a gun without a permit. The concept is often called “constitutional carry” or “permitless carry.”

“There are a large number of people who are law-abiding citizens, but they cannot afford to pay for a license,” said Rep. Jeff Coody (R), who is sponsoring the bill. “It gives those types of people, who are not in any way criminals or felons, the access to self-defense off of their home premises.”

Under the state’s current gun laws, gun owners have to go through eight hours of training and apply for a permit to carry. House Bill 2951 would do away with that. It would allow anyone who is legally allowed to own a weapon in the state of Oklahoma to carry a pistol, handgun, or rifle wherever it’s legal to carry.

The bill states that someone who is a legal resident, 21 years of age or older, not a convicted felon, not otherwise disqualified from the possession of a legally purchased firearm under state or federal law, and not involved in a crime could carry without a license. No one would be allowed to carry a gun into places prohibited by law.

Rep. Coody believes less restrictions for legal gun owners will keep people safer.

“In a worst case scenario, if danger is imminent, you should not be bureaucratically shackled by a law that does not protect anybody but the criminals,” he said.

Advocates for gun law reform disagree.

“Currently in Oklahoma, we actually have strong permitting standards that help keep communities safe and we should keep it that way,” said Jennifer Birch with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Birch joined the organization after the Sandy Hook shooting.

“Why does this keep happening and why can’t we find solutions to stop it?” Birch said. “I realize this is a complex issue and that we need to approach it from different angles, but I do think we can find common ground.”

The Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand Action will hold an advocacy day at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 27th at 10 a.m. to talk to lawmakers about their concerns with HB 2951 and other proposals.

“Over and over again, studies show that having guns around does not necessarily make us safer,” Birch said.

A House committee was scheduled to take up HB 2951 this week but had to postpone because of the winter weather. They will likely discuss the bill next week.

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