THURSDAY is when Oklahomans who are properly licensed to do so may begin carrying handguns in the open. Don't take that to mean you'll now feel like an extra on the old set of “Gunsmoke.”
The open-carry law, one of dozens of new laws that take effect this day, gives those who are licensed under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act the option to conceal their weapon or carry it openly. Our guess is that most concealed-carriers will prefer to keep their guns out of sight.
In addition, a number of restrictions are tied to the new law, Senate Bill 1733, which sailed through the Legislature this year. Businesses can continue prohibiting firearms on their premises. Carrying firearms won't be allowed on land owned or leased by the city, state or federal government, in schools or on college campuses, or at arenas during sports events.
Opponents of open carry said they were concerned it could lead to a “Wild West” atmosphere, but those arguments were always overstated. That certainly hasn't happened in the other 24 states that have open-carry laws.
Open carry will get more attention, but another new law could wind up having far more significance if it comes to fruition. The Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Initiative, pushed by outgoing House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, is designed to reduce the state prison population and cut corrections costs, with some of the savings then reinvested in the system.
The law hopes to reduce recidivism by requiring that all felons be supervised for nine months after leaving prison — presently, only about half are. It also changes the rules for when some nonviolent probation violators are returned to prison. Those men and women would get help instead of immediately being locked up again. And the law establishes a grant program through the attorney general's office to help local law enforcement agencies fight crime.