Though supporters and critics of the law have labeled it the end all of gun laws, that simply isn’t true.
Oklahoma House Bill 2597, which was passed in February and went into effect recently, legalizes permitless carry (also known as constitutional carry) of firearms for anyone who is allowed to own a firearm. To some, this is a massive red flag (pun intended) and to others, this is a long-overdue recognition of constitutional rights. Ultimately, I think it will change very little.
First, it is important to look at exactly what HB2597 actually says. Section 1 of this bill authorizes permitless open or concealed carry of a loaded or unloaded firearm, provided that the person in question is over 21 years old or an honorably discharged military veteran older than 18 who has not been convicted of assault or battery, domestic abuse, stalking, violation of restraining orders or illegal drug possession or use.
Section 2 prohibits firearms from being carried inside government buildings and inside parks and wildlife refuges, inside schools (including universities), at sporting events and in casinos. However, this prohibition is null for parking areas of these, meaning that one may have a firearm in his or her car. However, the weapon must be completely out of view and the vehicle must be locked if at one of these parking places.
Section 3 says that convicted felons in other states cannot carry weapons legally unless they were pardoned and it was a nonviolent felony. Furthermore, section 3 states that none of this applies to illegal immigrants, and that a $250 fine is the penalty if an illegal immigrant is carrying an unlicensed firearm. Section 4 states when permitless carry actually does apply — basically, anywhere where the property owners allow it to be so. Section 5 says that anyone who has a weapon in a vehicle and is pulled over must tell the officer that they have a weapon if they are asked. Depending on which of the above was violated, punishments range from fines of $70 to $250.
Based on this (which, needless to say, was all pulled straight from the final version of the bill available on the Oklahoma State Legislature website), I don’t believe that gun crime will increase or decrease as a direct result of this legislation. This legislation does not allow your dad with a beer belly to traipse into an elementary school with a glock sticking out of his waistband; more than anything else, what this really does is allow people to keep firearms in their vehicles wherever they go. Let’s look at some statistics:
According to World Population Review, 14 states now allow constitutional carry. Looking at all of them would be very tedious, and honestly I don’t get paid enough to be that rigorous, but the following information is from Business Insider if you want to verify it yourself. From 1991 to 2015, homicide rates fell by 37 percent in Arkansas, 36 percent in Arizona, and 22 percent in New Hampshire, but rose by 83.8 percent in Alaska and 19.8 percent in Oklahoma; all of those states have allowed open carry. Interestingly, Delaware — which does not allow open carry and has 39 separate gun provisions as compared to Oklahoma’s 10 — saw a massive increase of 184.7 percent. Minnesota, which has 41 separate gun control provisions and does not allow permitless carry, saw an increase of 22.1 percent.
Based on this, it seems that there is no statistically significant correlation between open carry laws and gun crime. Instead, these percentages must be explained by a rigorous, case-by-case analysis. Looking at Alaska, for instance, the large increase in violent crime is correlated with factors like increased alcohol abuse and a rising cost of living, along with the psychological effects of seasonal 23-hour nights and relative isolation.
House Bill 2597 is really not the end of the world. Gun crime in Oklahoma will probably continue to increase, but I am of the opinion that this legislation won’t impact that in any substantial way. It’s not nearly as significant as it is made out to be. In theory, it seems like this would lead to a catastrophic increase in violent gun crime, but in practice it doesn’t have the adverse effects one might associate with deregulation of firearms.