The Oklahoma state legislature is trying to loosen restrictions on gun control at a time when they should tighten them.
On February 5, House Representatives Jeff Coody and Nathan Dahm proposed House Bill 2951, which made new changes to requirements for carrying firearms. After succeeding in the Public Safety Committee, the bill is now headed to House of Representatives. Under current Oklahoma law, all Oklahoma residents are required to receive a license from the state and have undergone eight hours of training in order to carry a firearm.
In this bill, Oklahoma will allow “the carrying of a firearm, concealed or unconcealed, unloaded or loaded, by a person who is at least 21 years of age or eighteen years of age but not yet 21 years of age and the person is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, the Reserves or National Guard or who was discharged under honorable conditions.”
In addition to giving the average citizen the right to carry firearms without a permit, HB2951 also allows teachers at private schools to carry firearms at their workplace. Education boards across Oklahoma will be given the right to decide if teachers in their districts should be allowed this opportunity as well.
Not all potential citizens are included in this wide measure. Illegal aliens as well as former criminals who were arrested for crimes, such as assault, domestic abuse or drug offenses, are not allowed to carry guns or even be in a car that has a gun inside. With this freedom though, citizens are still not allowed to bring guns into state or federal buildings and sports and gambling destinations, unless allowed by the event holder.
This bill attempts to fix the problems of recent school shootings while still allowing average citizens to properly own guns. It, however, focuses on the wrong set of issues. Instead of removing restrictions on the average citizen in place of regulation of illegal aliens and known criminals, Oklahoma should instead focus on making sure every gun-owning citizen is properly trained and mentally stable, which our current laws do.
When asked about his reasoning behind the new bill, Representative Jeff Coody stated, “The Oklahoma Constitution says reasonable regulation is allowed, but I think that refers to types and calibers and who can carry. But it does not give the government the right to have a litmus test or a background check or require you to do anything to earn your right. It is not a drivers’ license. It is a constitutional right.”
Lawful citizens, according to Coody, should be allowed to carry firearms freely because the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives them this freedom. The solution to gun violence is to remove guns and deadly weapons from the hands of criminals and illegal aliens. By doing this, you remove known dangerous individuals while still allowing the average law abiding citizen their constitutional right.
Not everybody is on board with this legislation proposed by the government. An activist group known as Moms Demand Action went to the capital last Tuesday to protest the bill and similar legislation proposed by Coody. They fear that removing this legislation will make it substantially easier for untrained citizens to freely carry around firearms. In a statement to “Oklahoma News 4,” member Alyson King stated, “Oklahoma already has strong laws that ask people to get their permit with training, and they’re required to do that and, if we have permitless carry, that’s going to take away our strong laws.” They feel that current gun laws help make sure that only properly trained individuals are allowed to carry firearms. Adding more guns to the streets and the classrooms will not fix the problem of gun deaths but only increase them.
There are several issues with this bill in that it focuses on a small minority of individuals rather than the larger issue, and it attempts to fix the problem of school shootings by adding more guns when the opposite has been to shown to work across the globe. One of the new additions to Oklahoma gun ownership law specifically mentions illegal aliens as being unable to carry firearms.
According to the American Immigrant Council, there were only around 95,000 illegal immigrants in Oklahoma, which is 2 percent of the total population in 2014. In addition to their extremely small population, illegal immigrants are less likely to cause crimes than their native born counterparts. According to a 2017 study done by the Cato Institute, “Illegal immigrants, aged 18 to 54, were 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated in the age group.”
It would be more important for legislation to focus on the larger issue rather than such a relatively insignificant minority. Instead of focusing on illegal immigrants, the government should be focused on criminals and potentially dangerous citizens.
One of the other claims made by the bill is that ownership of guns in the hands of teachers would reduce school shootings. However, across the world, it has been shown that decreasing the accessibility of guns has reduced gun violence. While the United States has different qualities than other countries, it can still learn from others.
Japan has tight gun control laws and only experienced 11 gun-related deaths in 2008 compared to 12,000 in the United States. While the United States’ population is massively larger, similar Japanese policies would have an effect in the United States. This can also be seen in Great Britain, which had 26 gun-related deaths in 2016.
Through this data, we can learn that giving guns to teachers and other officials does not reduce gun deaths but rather increases them.
If the citizens of Oklahoma want to carry dangerous weapons such as firearms, they should be required to receive training and mental health certification to make they are ready for such a dangerous possibility. House Bill 2951 does the complete opposite of this and promotes a system in which everyone is allowed to carry a gun until they eventually do something dangerous. Instead of catching them after the crime has been committed and irreparable damage has occurred, we should catch potential criminals when they are receiving a weapon.