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SPECIAL REPORT: Open carry gun law in Oklahoma goes into effect - KOAM TV 7

SPECIAL REPORT: Open carry gun law in Oklahoma goes into effect

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Oklahoma has 142,000 men and woman licensed to carry concealed weapons.  Now Oklahoma joins 43 other states in the nation to have some form of licensed open carry.

Senate Bill 1733 was signed into law by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin this past May and went into effect November 1.

Many residents still have questions as to what the change entails.

As an extension of Oklahoma's Self Defense Act, registered concealed carriers in the state can now leave their jackets at home and display their guns in public.  It is something State Representative Steve Martin says residents have been requesting for years.

"When there is something that a sizable group of law abiding citizens want to do, then the state should have a compelling reason to tell them why they can't do it, or allow them to do it," says Martin.

Martin says that in deciding the parameters of the Oklahoma open carry law, legislators chose to tweak laws already on the books instead of creating something new.

"We simply expanded the concealed carry license to allow people with a concealed carry licence to also carry a firearm in a holster, that's all we're talking about, is the ability to carry a holster," says Martin.

Governor Fallin says the bill sends a strong message that Oklahomans value their right to defend themselves, their family and their property.

But open carry isn't without controversy and many across the state worry about the repercussions when visible guns are on the streets.

"You can only use deadly force to protect yourself or to protect someone else," says Miami Police Chief George Haralson.  "I'm concerned that a person has the weapon, not having much experience, in terms of trying to identify immediately whether or not there is a direct threat."

State representative Larry Glenn says he does not foresee too many Oklahomans exercising their right to open carry.  But if they do, he says the outcome will be the same as with concealed carry.

"The incidents have actually been very few that we've had with the concealed carry and probably the incidents that I've read of, they could have very well happened without the concealed carry law," says Glenn.

As it is for concealed carry, open carry licenses require an education class on gun laws and a shooting demonstration to ensure the individual can handle the weapon.  They also must submit to a criminal background check by the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations.

But is it enough?

"The training is minimal at best," says Chief Haralson.  "In this particular case, in order to be able to get licensed to carry weapons, whether it be concealed or in the open, they are only required to go through an eight hour program."

So while you won't see a person carrying a weapon unless they have been approved and trained to carry one, critics say more comprehensive open carry training may benefit the state.

Those in favor say the training is more than enough and strong holds, such as a right to revoke an open carry licence will keep citizens safe.

Delcie Rhoades has owned Rhoades Gun Shop with her husband for the past 35 years.  As a gun owner she is happy for the open carry change.

"We sold a lot of guns recently and they are for that purpose," says Rhoades.  "We're selling an awful lot of holsters, for them to carry of their hips."

Police across the state are voicing concern that the public may not know who is the good guy and who is not.

"They see someone carrying a weapon and it's alarming to them, you know, the fact that we have concealed carry and people have weapons and that they're concealed, you literally can go through Walmart and not know the person beside you or the aisle over from you has a weapon," says Chief Haralson.

Miami police are preparing for a spike in man with weapon calls now that the law is in place.

There are restrictions on where open carry will be allowed, like parking lots and public streets, and where it will not be allowed, like schools and government buildings.

"If you violate that then you will be charged with a violation under that state statue and it will be a misdemeanor and you will be booked into state court," says Chief Haralson.

Despite open carry now being legal in Oklahoma, store owners will still have their say as to whether or not they want guns on their premises.

"Guns in the hands of the right people are perfectly fine, and I'm totally against gun control because the illegal people, they are going to get the guns anyway," says Buff Highland, owner of Edward Jones in Miami.

"I'm not opposed to guns but I am opposed to this business of everybody now carrying a gun and coming into this store if they want to" says George Curtins, owner of Classy Brass Antiques.  "Ii won't know which one's coming into rob us and which one is coming in to help us."

"I'll put it to you this way, some of them I don't think even on the outside or inside, because they don't have enough sense to carry them," says Ed Burchett, owner of Ed's Barber Shop.

Sense and safety are the main issues surrounding the new law.

"The person who's taken this concealed carry permit and they've been out shooting, they know how to shoot their guns, they shouldn't be able to shoot their guns, they shouldn't be someone who doesn't know what they are doing," says Rhoades.

Those choosing to pack heat and openly carrying may get a licence for five or ten years at a time.  There a few other restrictions such as the weapon may be no larger than a 0.45 caliber, and it can only be carried on your shoulder or hip.

Openly carrying firearms will also be prohibited where alcohol is consumed, except by law enforcement and owners of the establishment.

This does not include restaurants and anyone convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors can not have a handgun licence.

Oklahoma law enforcement recommends reviewing the bullet list of open carry do's and don't's prior to exercising your new found right.

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