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Oklahoma police open to Open Carry, but adjustment will be required

Law enforcement officials say new gun legislation Nov. 1 can work in Oklahoma, but not without sharing information and retraining officers and dispatchers.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Published: October 29, 2012

Oklahoma City attorney Doug Friesen, who has made several presentations on the new law to Oklahoma police departments and businesses, said he thinks the adjustment period will be quick. In the meantime, he said open carriers might expect police to be a bit more strict in enforcing laws.

Police officers who are suspicious of a gun carrier's intent might not be able to detain him and run a warrant check just for carrying a gun. But if that carrier steps outside the boundaries of the rules even slightly, they may be subjected to more intensive questioning.

“I think there will be some enforcing of some laws that haven't been enforced in the past,” Friesen said. “For instance, you can get pulled over for jaywalking, spitting on the sidewalk. They're righteous stops, but they're really just protectoral stops, and I think you're going to see a lot of that if you choose to carry openly.”

Friesen said police and opponents of relaxed public handgun standards expressed similar concerns in 1995, when the concealed-carry law was first passed in Oklahoma. Those worries didn't pan out, he said.

“The only thing we saw in the statistics across the board was that violent crime dropped because everybody knows criminals are basically just scared bullies and they don't want to get hurt,” he said.

Carriers are ready

Bryan Hull, who sits on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Open Carry Association, said gun carriers are working to familiarize themselves with the law and will actively demonstrate that they can carry openly, safely and without incident. At the same time, they will expect police to respect their new rights.

“Our take on it is if they come up and check the permit, visually check it and hand it back, say, ‘Have a nice day,' then no detention took place. If they run the permit, dig deeper and start asking questions and stuff, then we're talking detention, and we have a problem,” Hull said.

Hull, who runs a tow truck operation in downtown Oklahoma City, said he is excited at the prospect of wearing his gun on his hip while responding to vehicles in need of a tow. He's been threatened before and had to pull his concealed weapon at least once; he hopes the sight of a gun will deter anyone from threatening him again.

“I've lived in an open-carry state and I've seen this firsthand — most criminals don't factor in a citizen with a handgun, and when they see that handgun it very frequently makes them change their plans,” he said.

Miles Hall, owner of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, the state's largest gun emporium, said most concealed-carry permit holders have said they do not intend to carry openly. Hall, the beneficiary of a spike in permit applicants this year, said people choose to arm themselves in public not to impose, but to protect themselves and their families.

“We've asked the question: ‘Would you carry open?' And an incredibly small number, less than a percent, say yes. Most say, ‘No, I'm going to keep concealed, because that's the advantage,'” Hall said. “The tactical advantage is to keep concealed. I do expect to see people open carry for the first time because they can, but then I expect it to fade away.”

That's an opinion shared by Courtney Wright, an Oklahoma City resident who works for the state.

Discussing open carry during a recent lunch break, Wright said she is already in the process of acquiring her concealed weapon permit.

“I don't feel a need to display it; I personally don't want somebody else to know I'm packing,” she said. “I want that surprise element, I guess, should I have to use it.”

Elana Rodriguez, another Oklahoma City resident taking her lunch break in Bricktown, said she thinks the new open-carry standard will make some people nervous.

But, Rodriguez said, it could also save a life.

“It makes it a lot easier for tensions to get heavy, but at the same point — just like what happened in Colorado with the movie theater — who knows, maybe if somebody had a gun on their hip it could discourage people,” she said.

Prepare to adjust

Easley said police and public understanding of the new law will go a long way toward ensuring the law works as enacted. Monday's forum, he said, will be a chance to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“It's a new law, and like most new laws, it's going to be an adjustment period for both citizens and for those in law enforcement,” he said. “It's not a big deal as long as they are within those areas that are allowed by law, and we can't allow ourselves as law enforcement to overreact. That's what we're telling our people: Don't overreact on these things. Ask for a permit, see the license, and if they're in a place they can carry, fine.”

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