Three individuals with handguns, including an Oklahoma Second Amendment Association member, were prohibited from entering the Gathering Place when it officially opened to the public last weekend. Park officials said Saturday that handguns weren't permitted because firearms didn't create a safe and inclusive environment for families, the Tulsa World reported .
"Park security and the Tulsa Police Department are working together to ensure these rules are clearly communicated and consistently enforced," Gathering Place officials said in a statement.
The park currently operates as a private enterprise but was gifted by the George Kaiser Family Foundation in 2014 to River Parks Authority, a public entity. River Parks reached a deal in which a subsidiary of the foundation would maintain, operate and program the park.
Oklahoma Second Amendment Association President Don Spencer argues that the park needs to abide by a state law that allows licensed handguns in parks. Spencer recently sent letters to the park, the River Parks Authority and Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan, demanding that the park comply with state law.
"Whether it is public property or a private entity lease the public property, the (right to) peaceful possession of a firearm does not change, because it is always considered public property," Spencer said.
State law prohibits individuals from carrying licensed handguns into public structures, but it exempts public parks.
"If you are having a picnic in the park, and you (carry) a legally licensed firearm, it is fine for you to be in the park," said Richard Bales, Tulsa County's parks director. "If you choose to go into one of the public buildings ... that part of the law says, 'No, you can't.'"
Gathering Place's first phase of more than 66 acres (27 hectares) opened Saturday. The park is expected to span 100 acres (40 hectares) after the second and third phases are completed.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com
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