Resurrected 'constitutional carry' bill faces uncertain future

Just months after the Republican governor vetoed it, supporters have resurrected a controversial measure to allow Oklahomans to carry firearms without training or licensing.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Just months after the Republican governor vetoed it, supporters have resurrected a controversial measure to allow Oklahomans to carry firearms without training or licensing.

Supporters, though, admit the fate of the “constitutional carry” bill is uncertain in 2019 as it faces an untested Legislature comprised of dozens of new members.

“With so many new faces, it’s unpredictable what the new faces are going to do, and if they’re going to stick to their constitutional oath or if they’re going to follow the whims of political correctness,” said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, which requested the measure.

In 2018, the measure easily cleared the Legislature, only to later be vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin after business leaders and law enforcement officials expressed public safety concerns.

Under Senate Bill 12, anyone at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other criminal record, would be allowed to carry with no permitting, licensing or training. Individuals would be prohibited from carrying if they’re committing a crime.

State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, who authored the latest effort, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Spencer, though, said it’s time to restore the right, which was taken away in 1907.

“It’s a constitutional right,” Spencer said. “This right should never have been taken away.”

He said 14 other states currently allow constitutional carry.

Newly elected Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said he supported constitutional carry prior to the election. However, he has not currently endorsed a policy mechanism to enact it, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“I think it’s pretty likely it comes up at some point,” said state Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City. “We’re going to see how moderate (the new legislators) really are, and how different the Legislature is from where it was last year.”

Stone said he’s a pro-gun legislator and a gun owner, but he couldn’t support the 2018 legislation. He won’t support the measure next year, either.

“I still have a lot of concerns about the bill,” he said.” One of the first things is I don’t think it’s good for public safety.”

He also said passing such a controversial measure could end up costing the state billions of dollars in economic development and convention funding.

Gun ownership may be a right, but it’s also a privilege, Stone said. People can lose the right to own firearms.

In addition, Stone said he’s concerned that people without any experience handling or maintaining a weapon could be carrying untrained.

He said people could easily purchase a gun and carry it even “when all they’ve done is put others in danger.”

Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.