While privacy laws and alleged lack of political will make Oklahoma a target of national gun control advocates, local gun rights activists and those who work in the industry say more stringent rules and regulations may not be the best way to keep Oklahoma safe.
Though mental health issues seemingly played a role in all of the recent mass shooting incidents in the United States, there was another variable at play — gun-free zones, industry members said.
Miles Hall, owner of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, the state's largest gun emporium, said it's foolish to believe background checks and federal mental health record databases will keep guns out of the hands of those who intend to do harm. Even the sickest of minds can display brilliance when plotting this type of massacre, he said.
“I have to admit, that's the thing that makes me most nervous — gun-free zones,” he said.
“We have disarmed the ability of victims to put up a defense.”
According to Oklahoma statute, members of the general public are currently prohibited from carrying firearms on government property, at corrections facilities, at schools and college campuses and at sporting arenas during sporting events.
A legislative push in recent years to allow firearms on college campuses has failed, but some legislators said they haven't given up on the prospect.
Tim Gillespie, director of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, said putting more guns in the hands of residents will ensure those people can protect themselves in case of a shooting incident. It also acts as a deterrent to bad guys who don't want to get shot.
“I'm not saying you don't try to keep guns out of the hands out of the people who shouldn't keep them, but most of the time any new gun control law is not going to hurt the criminal, it's going to hurt the honest law-abiding citizen,” Gillespie said.
Still others said the issue needs to be approached from a mental health treatment standpoint.
David Gordon, executive director of the Oklahoma office of National Alliance on Mental Illness, said a lack of funding and treatment support means far too many people are falling through the cracks.
There are three times as many people with mental health disorders in prison than in hospitals, Gordon said.
“You may have some people who have mental illness who go into a store to buy a gun, and there will be some you may have prevented — but there's so many guns out there they can get illegally,” he said. “The problem with that argument is it takes away from the real issue — access to treatment.”