Firearms being allowed inside the Gathering Place is more about displaying power than increasing public safety.
Common sense was thrown out the window this week when the Tulsa Police Department shuffled their position on open carry laws at The Gathering Place. In the past, TPD upheld the no-guns policy at the park, but they have since released a statement that they would no longer continue to remove individuals with firearms from the premises, since the legality of doing so had been deemed murky.
The question of whether The Gathering Place is a public or private entity has entrenched the park in controversy. The Gathering Place itself has a strict set of rules, including no guns, dogs or bicycles on the premises. If the park were a purely private entity, then TPD would be in their rights to arrest or remove any individual who carried a gun there. However, if the park were a public piece of land, then gun holders could sue police officers for false arrest.
The decision comes after several cases of people being escorted from the park due to their open carry. In two of the three initial incidents, the detainees were connected to the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, or OK2A. Following these incidents, a Second Amendment rally was held by OK2A in the park. The group did not open carry at the demonstration, claiming that they wanted to have a peaceful protest and that the presence of guns would distract from their message. Their message in which they argued for the presence of guns.
Nathan Dahm, Broken Arrow’s state senator in Oklahoma’s legislature, made an appearance at the pro-gun rally held after multiple people with firearms had been escorted off the premises during the opening of The Gathering Place. He said, “We’ve seen mass shootings take place in gun-free zones. By banning guns, all you would do is stop law-abiding citizens from having firearms in that public space.” This isn’t really true though. Besides the fact that 80 percent of guns are obtained legally during mass shootings, research has shown that owning a gun doesn’t really make you safer. In fact, it does exactly the opposite. Along with a higher risk of suicides in the household, owning a gun can lead people to making riskier, perhaps fatal decisions.
In all of this arguing over the legality of open carry in privately-owned spaces, I have to bring it back to the fact that this whole controversy circles around whether guns should be allowed at a park. A park that is meant primarily for children. I understand the desire to protect your children, but is that what this is really all about? Protecting people? Or rather, is it what I’m inclined to believe most Second Amendment fanatics really care about: power and the display of it.
Is it really so difficult to understand that the rules ask for you to consider others? A majority of the incidents within the park have involved people associated with OK2A, and that fact alone is highly troubling. Most of these incidents occurred because these people are wanting to push buttons. It would not be all that difficult to leave the gun at home with your dog when you go to the park. The rally held in which OK2A decided to not open carry proved this. OK2A’s cause is less about safety and more about fighting anyone who says they can’t take a gun where they want to take a gun.
It’s understandable that the Tulsa Police Department would want to protect their own, but the name of the game is protecting the residents of the town. In this case, TPD made a bad call, choosing to protect their officers and gun-carriers over the general public.
The Gathering Place is a tremendous gift to the city of Tulsa. I only wish we could be better stewards of it.The best we can hope for is that, with their point made, open-carrying men and women will leave well enough alone, and the whole thing will blow over.