By Rachel Brody |
The proposal to allow open carry in Oklahoma is unnecessary, redundant, not well thought out, and will lead to dire unintended consequences for Oklahoma citizens and visitors to the state.
Oklahoma already permits concealed carry, with a brief course of instruction. To now allow open carry (one proposal would even allow unlicensed open carry), i.e., to put more guns into the hands of more people, is an invitation to chaos, especially given the disparity in who will be armed and who won't.
The baseline question is whether those who will be armed will be trustworthy with their advantage over the unarmed. Open carry is unsafe, intimidating, and potentially dangerous, especially given that there are no provisions for proper administration, controls, and protections for the public. Many first-time "toters" will also be untrained in retaining control of their own weapons and may make it possible for others to grab their guns and use them against innocent bystanders. Guns kill the innocent and the guilty equally. When the smoke settles, the dead have no voice.
Open carry predicates a well-balanced and rational society in an era when reality suggests differently. Guns consistently factor into these equations in Oklahoma, where domestic violence is epidemic (we rank third in spousal abuse deaths); where there is a history of racially motivated violent actions against people of color, the most notable of which have taken place in Tulsa, where five African-Americans were shot and three died recently, and thousands were killed or made homeless in the 1921 burning of Greenwood; and where there are significant numbers of unanswered and unresolved questions about African-American shooting deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
But even law enforcement is fearful of the consequences of allowing people to open carry, out of a concern about not knowing who is the good guy or the bad guy in the midst of a violent encounter. Law enforcement and communities at large view the carrying of any type of weapon, openly or concealed, as a threat to their well-being and public safety.
Oklahoma is no longer and should never again become a venue for old-style, wild, wild West activities. We have enough rodeos in which to seek to recapture that era. The Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms being uninfringed evolved early in our country's history over concerns about subjection to rule by another country. The popularity of Second Amendment rights today appears to evolve from activists' concerns about violence and wanting to be able to defend against violence. They cite their Second Amendment rights, but people who choose to live in peace also have the right not to be exposed to weapons and violence. Legislation must balance protection of the rights of all.
The solution to concerns about violence is better and more effectively achieved through policy initiatives that address the sources of our wounds—poverty, obesity, smoking, addiction, mental illness, and health disparity, to name a few. When we focus on and get these areas right, we will have achieved great strides toward reducing the conditions that perpetuate violence in society.
Open carry will pass in our Republican-controlled state unless citizens who strongly oppose this proposal begin to engage their elected officials about more people carrying more guns not being the solution.
About Constance N. Johnson Democratic State Senator in Oklahoma
Dave Workman Senior Editor of TheGunMag.com
Ralph Shortey Republican State Senator in Oklahoma
Lindsay Nichols Staff Attorney with Legal Community Against Violence
Josh Sugarmann Founder and Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center