A bill that would exempt guns or ammunition made in the state from federal regulations and hailed by its authors as protecting Second Amendment gun rights for Oklahomans easily passed its first test.
The House of Representatives Public Safety Committee without debate voted 13-0 to pass House Bill 2021, the latest version of the Firearms Freedom Act.
It now goes to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide if it gets a hearing on the House floor.
The only question asked was by committee member Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, who wanted to know if the measure would allow the manufacture of a rocket-propelled grenade. It does not.
Rep. Sean Roberts, one of several House authors of the measure, said the bill provides for the manufacture or assembly of firearms, firearms accessories or ammunition in the state. The items cannot be sold or taken outside the state. As long as the items remain in Oklahoma, they would not be subject to federal law or federal regulations, said Roberts, R-Hominy.
A firearm manufactured or assembled under guidelines of the bill must have the words “Made in Oklahoma” on it, Roberts said. It prohibits fully automatic weapons or any weapon designed to fire rocket-propelled grenades or any explosive projectile.
Roberts said the bill's passage could attract gun manufacturers to Oklahoma.
Rep. John Bennett, another House author, said he and other backers of the bill have sent requests to gun manufacturers in states considered not friendly to gun owners, such as California and Colorado.
“They're looking for places to move because of that,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “This legislation just passed just kind of compounds that we are a gun-friendly state and we want their business here.”
Buyers of weapons from an Oklahoma gun manufacturer would still have to undergo background checks and be at least 21 years old if the firearm is a handgun or 18 if the weapon is a shotgun or rifle, according to the bill. They can't be a felon nor have been committed to a mental health institution.
Bennett said if the federal government would outlaw 30-round magazines for semi-automatic weapons, an Oklahoma gun manufacturer would be allowed to produce 30-round magazines and sell them to Oklahomans under HB 2021.
“They (federal government) cannot come in here and tell our citizens in Oklahoma that they cannot buy this,” Bennett said.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed two similar bills three years ago; both were vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat. He said the measures did nothing to protect an individual's right to bear arms and they could make the state a haven for domestic and international offenders seeking to elude federal gun safeguards as well as result in a costly legal challenge.
The so-called firearm freedoms measure was first enacted in Montana and subsequently approved in several other states. About two dozen others are considering it.
A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said it's too early in the process to comment on specific legislation. The Republican governor is a gun owner, a member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of gun rights, said Alex Weintz, Fallin's communications director.
Bennett said he is optimistic Fallin will sign HB 2021.
“Elected officials, they sway with whichever way society's going at that time, and society in the state of Oklahoma is very gun-friendly,” he said. “They want their gun rights.”