|Updated: 10/27/2012 2:22 am
||Published: 10/26/2012 7:27 pm
Locked, loaded and ready. Or, are we? On November 1st, Oklahomans will have an open carry option. People with a proper license can carry a handgun, and they no longer have to conceal it.
FOX23 took an in-depth look at the new law in an hour-long special Friday night. If you missed it, or want additional information, we've compiled it all here. You also have the option to watch the special here on FOX23.com, just click the video box at left. The special has been broken up into half-hour long segments.
Before you can put a gun in a waist or shoulder holster, and carry it around town, the law says you have to have a handgun license. If you already have a concealed carry permit, it will apply to open carry as well beginning November 1st.
If you don't have a license, you are required to take a handgun licensing class, fire 50 rounds, take your certification to your local county sheriff's office, and then submit an application for your handgun license.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and FBI reviews that application, which can take sixty days or more to be accepted or denied. You will have to submit to an in-state and out-of-state criminal background check on your handgun licensing application. With the application questionnaire, you must also turn in two copies of a passport photo and fingerprints, which will be run through a national database.
We met Randy Reese at a class in Tulsa. He hopes he never has to use his weapon, but if he does, he wants to be ready.
"It's your responsibility to be comfortable shooting it," Reese said. "Anybody who owns a gun should shoot at least semi-regularly.
Some people won't qualify for a license: convicted felons, those with certain types of misdemeanors, people with protective orders against them, or those who have had a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
Costs for obtaining a handgun license: $40-$60 for the class, $10-$20 for the passport photos, up to $25 for fingerprints, a $100 application fee for a five-year license or $200 for ten years.
"Like a lot of other things. If you're going to have a driver's license, you have a car, you buy a car," said Reese. "It takes a big investment. And so, typically, you'll take care of your car."
Once you get your license, you're required to openly carry in a shoulder or waist holster. You should keep your photo handgun license with you. The law states that law enforcement cannot randomly check your weapon, stating "nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a law enforcement officer to inspect any weapon properly concealed or unconcealed without probable cause that a crime has been committed."
However, if you are approached or stopped by an officer, you must tell the officer if you are carrying a gun, either openly or concealed, and you must produce your handgun license if the officer asks to see it.
By the numbers
In 2006, about 9,600 people statewide were issued concealed carry licenses. That number jumped to more than 18,000 in 2008, an election year. Then, amid concerns that the Obama administration would restrict guns, that number doubled in 2009, to nearly 36,000. So far in 2012, close to 34,000 people have renewed or applied for a handgun license. Some of those applications could be denied. There are more than 141,000 active handgun licenses in the state of Oklahoma as of October 24, 2012.
State lawmakers shot down open carry measures for years before Senate Bill 1733 was enacted this year with Governor Mary Fallin's signature. While running for governor, Mary Fallin was endorsed by the NRA and she promised to expand gun rights. Former governor Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed a measure passed by the state legislature in 2010, saying it "did nothing to strengthen second amendment protections." Another measure died in a house committee in 2011.
Senate Bill 1733, authored by Republican Senator Anthony Sykes of Moore competed with a similar house bill, but in the end, the senate bill made it to the governor's desk.
Guns carried openly or concealed are banned in the following places: public meetings, bars or other liquor establishments where liquor is consumed, schools, federal buildings, courthouses, college campuses, sporting events, and airports (only past security checkpoints unless "no firearms" signs are posted). They are allowed in restaurants as long as food is the primary source of income, not liquor. Business owners can post signs banning firearms on their property.
Chris Shiller at Economy Pharmacy tells us he has no reservations about the new law. He already has a camera system and an alarm system in place. He says he's carrying, and so can his customers.
"If you are carrying concealed or open carry, you just have peace of mind that you can protect yourself and protect your family," said Shiller.
Not every business owner we talked to feels that way.
In ten years, crime has never been an issue at Capps Barber Shop, but the owner doesn't like the idea of guns now.
"I wouldn't allow it. I wouldn't allow guns coming in here," said Fredd Capps. But, he says he'll stop short of putting up a sign banning firearms in his store.
Banks, credit unions, grocery stores, retail liquor stores, and convenience stores can decide whether or not to post signs prohibiting weapons. Arvest Bank declined comment, but says for now no signs have been posted at its branches in Oklahoma. Quiktrip says it will not post any signs prohibiting open or concealed carry based on experiences in other states that allow open carry. Walmart has the same policy as QT. Woodland Hills mall says it will post signs prohibiting firearms.
Local gun shops have seen a windfall as open carry approaches.
"Maybe a twenty to thirty percent increase in handgun sales," said Pat Johnston, a Broken Arrow gun shop owner.
It's important to note under the law, you cannot openly carry any gun over .45 caliber. It must qualify as a handgun, so smaller rifles or shotguns are not covered in the law.
Safety & self-defense
Firearms experts we talked to warn openly carrying a gun can make you a victim if you don't have the right training.
FOX23's Abbie Alford did a demonstration with firearms training expert Steve Aryan at the U.S. Shooting Academy in North Tulsa.
Aryan says it may be instinct to reach for a gun if you're approached by a stranger, but, he says, to stay alive, you must keep the bad guy from ever getting his hands on your weapon or your holster.
Rule #1, says Aryan, use your body to keep the bad guy away from your gun.
"If I get an elbow to my face, I'm worried about my face, not the gun," said Aryan.
He says avoid pulling your gun unless you have no choice, because once the gun is out, there's a better chance it could be taken away and used against you.
Rule #2, says Aryan, pay attention to your surroundings, always watch for signs of trouble and don't get distracted by texting or phone calls.
Rule #3, don't try to be a hero.
"My goal is to go home safe," said Aryan. "It's not to be a vigilante or a hero. It is to survive."
He says carrying a gun is about having protection, as well as the skill and ability to defend yourself.
"To do so kind of half-heartedly because you want to open carry, because you can, you put yourself at risk at that point."
It is just as important to lock guns up properly when you're at home, or not carrying, so they do not get into the hands of children.
You'll find continuing coverage of the open carry law on FOX23 and FOX23.com.