OKLAHOMA CITY >> Several Republican candidates for governor of Oklahoma urged GOP Gov. Mary Fallin today to sign legislation allowing adults to carry handguns without a permit amid growing opposition from some of the state’s top law enforcement officials.
Oklahoma currently requires a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed and charges handgun license applicants a fee of up to $200. But gun rights supporters, including GOP gubernatorial candidates Gary Richardson and Dan Fisher, a former state representative, said they believe the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to carry firearms without government interference.
“This is an unalienable right,” Fisher said. “We’re hoping to get Gov. Fallin to sign it and respond to what I believe is the overwhelming will of the people.”
The “constitutional carry” bill, similar to others in effect in a dozen other states, would authorize people 21 and older and military personnel who are at least 18 to legally carry a handgun, either openly or concealed, without a state-issued license or permit.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which issues handgun licenses under the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, said in a statement last week that the bill eliminates the training requirement for carrying a firearm as well as an extensive background check process that includes mental health and court records.
State bureau of investigation officials said eliminating state handgun licenses would also impact its budget, reducing revenue by $4.7 million a year due to lost application fees and forcing the elimination of as many as 60 positions.
Fisher, one of 10 candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said he recommends that anyone who handles firearms receive training.
“But In the end, it’s not lack of training that causes people to use guns to kill people, it’s lack of morals,” Fisher said. “When you look at what ‘s going on with the misuse of firearms, it has nothing to do with training, it’s bad guys.”
Richardson said he would sign the bill in spite of law enforcement’s concerns.
“It’s constitutional law,” Richardson said. “We can’t have a constitution that’s based on people’s habits.”
Other Republican gubernatorial candidates, including front-runners in the race, said they would also sign the constitutional carry bill.
“I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, and as governor, I would support this constitutional carry legislation,” Mick Cornett, former Oklahoma City mayor, told The Oklahoman.
“Throughout my career I have proven I am an unabashed supporter of the Second Amendment,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who encouraged Fallin to sign it.
A spokesperson for Republican candidate Kevin Stitt, Donelle Harder, said he supports the constitutional carry bill, which also has support from rank-and-file gun rights advocates.
“The state of Oklahoma, as many other states have done, has made a privilege out of a right by charging one a licensing fee to secure that right,” said McCray of Manchester, Oklahoma. “All this is to me, in my opinion, is a money grab and they’re making me pay for a privilege when it’s a right.”
“It’s a constitutional right that a person be able to defend themselves without permission from the government,” said Don Spencer of Meridian, Oklahoma, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
Fallin, who is term-limited, has not said whether she’ll sign the measure that lawmakers approved last week. The Republican has expressed support for Second Amendment rights and today signed a bill that adds churches to the list of places where deadly force can be used, but she has vetoed other gun rights legislation in the past.