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Oklahoma businesses have mixed-bag approach to open carry law

The Nov. 1 gun law change is a nonevent for some Oklahoma businesses, but others will wait to see whether visible guns will comfort or bother customers.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: October 29, 2012

Mark Lisle, president at the Edmond branch of BancFirst, said his business, too, will continue to operate without a policy that breaks from state law.

“People come in now with concealed guns, we just don't know about it,” Lisle said. “We think it's kind of a nonevent and we're going to see very few customers if any that carry weapons either concealed or open as the novelty wears off and people realize it's kind of cumbersome to carry.”

Roger Beverage, president and chief executive at the Oklahoma Bankers Association, said bank managers will continue to be allowed to make that decision for themselves.

“The most important thing we're doing as an industry is to do everything we can to ensure our customers and our employees are safe,” Beverage said. “We think, generally speaking, every bank has the opportunity to decide for itself whether it wants to prohibit weapons on the premises. Most of them do.”

Bryan Hull, who sits on the board of directors for Oklahoma Open Carry Association, said he and other advocates of open carry will work to support those businesses that respect the new law and to boycott those that don't.

Hull carries in his pocket a stack of cards that he distributes to businesses that do not allow firearms inside. The cards explain the benefits of an armed customer base and suggest a boycott from gun owners should the no-guns policy stay intact.

Over the summer, when officials of Midwest City-based grocery store chain Crest Foods began putting “no handgun” stickers on their doors, open carry supporters inundated the business with phone calls and crashed the company website.

The incident persuaded owner Bruce Harroz to reconsider the policy, he said.

“We're looking toward no weapons allowed, but we haven't pulled the trigger on it yet,” Harroz said. “Everybody's going to be carrying heat, and I don't know how the customer is going to react to that.”

Hull said it's important for Harroz and other business owners to recognize criminals won't respect their anti-handgun policies, and that gun carriers are, necessarily, law-abiding citizens without a criminal record or a record of drug use.

Gun-free zones like college campuses or movie theaters may attract criminals who are not interested in carrying out a robbery or shooting in places where their victims also may be toting guns, Hull argued.

“Understand that 4 percent of Oklahomans have a handgun license, and that number is going up very rapidly,” he said. “There is a very, very large number of gun owners who refuse to do business at a place that puts up these signs.”

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