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Oklahoma Legislature to discuss guns, texting and driving, drones during new session

Bills filed in the Oklahoma Legislature for the session that begins Monday, Feb. 3, concern firearms regulations, privacy and confidentiality laws, health care, workers' compensation and one that would allow for a state cowboy song.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: February 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm •  Published: February 4, 2013

It's easy to determine the issues of the day with a quick glance at the 2,400 bills filed by Oklahoma lawmakers for the legislative session that starts Monday.

More than 100 concern firearms regulations, or lack thereof, and twice that amount concern health care. Nearly 100 more mention workers' compensation, though only about a third of these concern actual changes to the law.

Fifty-four bills filed in the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives strengthen or loosen privacy and confidentiality laws in regards to the state's open records and meetings acts, eight concern the use of cellphones while driving, and one would call for a contest to name the state's “cowboy song.”

Historically, only about 20 percent of bills proposed by legislators will become law, but determining in advance which ones those are is a practice in futility.

Looking at the bills, though, one thing is for sure: The opinions and issues held dear to the state's 149 lawmakers run the gamut.

“I think with the discussion nationwide and particularly what happened in Connecticut — if he says that this year he won't hear them he may have an issue because everyone's talking about it, you know,” said Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City.

Shortey, who begins his third year in the Senate, is referring to the chairman of the body's public safety committee, Don Barrington, R-Lawton.

Last year, Shortey said, Barrington wouldn't take up his package of about a dozen bills that would in essence dismantle whatever gun-control regulations remain intact in Oklahoma.

So Shortey filed them again this year, with the hopes that the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December will persuade Barrington and others to take up the issue.

Among bills included in Shortey's “wish list,” as he described it:

• One that would replace language requiring gun carriers to inform police officers that they are carrying a weapon to language that would require it only if they are asked.

• One that would permit state legislators like himself to carry a firearm anywhere in the state.

• One that would allow permitted gun carriers to take their weapons with them to government meetings, including at the local, state and federal level, as well as to professional sporting events.

• And one that would lower the cost of acquiring a firearms license from $100 to $35.

Shortey said these bills “would fix everything that's wrong with the Firearms Act,” including the elimination of so-called “gun free zones.”

“If I were a crazy person who wanted to go out on a high note like these people who do mass shootings, why wouldn't I choose a school?” he said. “You know, you've got the most impact, you're going to get the most media attention, you're guaranteed there's not going to be any resistance because there's not going to be any firearms. If I were a nut job that wanted to make the biggest impact, that's what I would choose, and I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.”

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