Oklahoma legislators need to have the ability to carry handguns to defend themselves from angry constituents and others who might carry out death threats and turn public meetings into killing fields, a House member said Tuesday.
“We don't protect ourselves,” said Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “According to the Constitution, the Second Amendment, I can carry in this building, that building, anyplace I want to go except if I do now I'm going to get in trouble, probably get arrested.
“How many people in here go to public events and public meetings and speak out in public either at the libraries, football fields, schools and places like that?” he asked House members. “Some of you may carry there anyway even though you're not supposed to. But you probably do it because those are killing grounds. We have provided killing grounds for the bad guys to come and get us.”
Bennett, a former Marine who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he has received several death threats. Several other members have received threats, he said.
Bennett tried unsuccessfully to add language to House Bill 2522 that would have allowed lawmakers the ability to carry firearms in most places in the state, including the state Capitol. The bill would allow the attorney general or any assistant attorney general to carry a firearm anywhere in the state except while off-duty and in businesses or on private property where firearms are prohibited. The attorney general and his assistants would first be required to complete an approved firearms training course.
It was the second attempt this year by Bennett to get legislation passed giving legislators the right to carry firearms without having to get a concealed carry permit.
Rep. Steve Martin, author of HB 2522, said he hoped lawmakers wouldn't give in to the temptation of writing special rules for themselves.
“That might start us down the dangerous path of giving ourselves really unjustified privileges that the average citizen doesn't have,” said Martin, R-Bartlesville. “I would hope that the members would not support the idea of sticking legislators in this simply because we're legislators and we'd like to have that privilege.”