Oklahoma City gun owners exercise their new rights

Over sodas and early morning fare, gun activists come packing to discuss self-defense and constitutional rights.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm •  Published: November 1, 2012

It wouldn't be fair to Beverly's Pancake House to say they didn't come for the chicken and waffles.

But the 25 or so men and women who filled in half the restaurant as Thursday began also came to celebrate their newfound gun rights.

When the clock struck 12, Oklahoma became the 14th state to allow people with a permit to carry their 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.

With pistols in their holsters, sipping sodas and seemingly split over whether lunch or breakfast was appropriate for the time of night, the conversation was strictly constitutional rights and self-defense at first. Gradually, the men forgot their guns and turned to catching up.

Once open carry settles in, the public will forget about the guns as well, say its advocates. After all, most these guys have already been carrying concealed for years.

“I think a right not exercised is a right lost, and so open carry is more symbolic to me,” said Jon Muckleroy, an aircraft mechanic from Oklahoma City who dined on eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy with a Smith & Wesson M&P45 in his holster.

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 last May by Gov. Mary Fallin and was one of several new laws that went into effect at midnight Thursday.

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 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 guns on sidewalks, in grocery stores, and at restaurants like Beverly’s — at least initially.

“We started planning for today the day after the governor signed the legislation,” he said.

But opponents say they fear more guns will lead to more violence. Though the law requires a background check against a federal database before a carry permit is approved, Oklahoma is one of 15 states that had submitted three or less mental health records as of 2011.

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