Open carry arrived in Oklahoma without a hitch.
Spokesmen with police departments in Oklahoma City, Norman and Edmond said their dispatchers did not receive a single call from citizens concerned about firearms on Thursday, the first day for the law allowing people with a state-issued permit to openly carry certain handguns in public.
“It feels like freedom to us; it feels very liberating,” said Bryan Hull, who runs a towing service in downtown Oklahoma City and co-founded the Oklahoma Open Carry Association.
Hull and about two dozen other men and women celebrated the arrival of loosened gun restrictions by bringing their holstered weapons to breakfast shortly after midnight at Beverly's Pancake House on Northwest Expressway.
But the days of holding placards or shouting chants are over; instead, the open carry supporters ate and talked quietly, their pistols visible but tucked away.
Jon Muckleroy, an aircraft mechanic from Oklahoma City who dined on eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy with a Smith & Wesson M&P45 on his belt, said the point of the gathering at Beverly's was a celebration of rights.
“I think a right not exercised is a right lost, and so open carry is more symbolic to me,” Muckleroy said.
Joe Wood, of Norman, also an aircraft mechanic but at Tinker Air Force Base, carried a Taurus PT145 and ate a hamburger.
“I just feel more secure and safe,” he said.
Open carry was signed into law in May by Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican. Her Democratic predecessor, Gov. Brad Henry, vetoed a similar bill in 2010, citing law enforcement concerns.
Restrictions remain in place at government buildings, bars and professional sporting events, among others, but in general the law is meant to be more permissive than restrictive. Businesses and private property owners can continue to prohibit firearms, carried openly or concealed, but citizens maintain the right to store them in their vehicles on private and government property.
More than 141,000 active concealed carry permits in Oklahoma are now simply “carry permits.”
Hull said residents can expect to see people carrying guns on sidewalks, in grocery stores and at restaurants like Beverly's — at least initially.
“We worked really hard to get this legislation passed through the legislature, our group and the 2nd Amendment Association,” Hull said. “We started planning for today the day after the governor signed the legislation.”
Open carry is about self protection and about demonstrating that gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens, he said.
“But it also provides a deterrent factor against criminals,” he said, noting the gun strapped to his hip once prevented a robbery at his office, where he regularly carries it openly.