With the new Oklahoma Open Carry law, put in place with the signing of Senate Bill 1733 on May 14, and set to take effect on Nov. 1, making it legal to openly carry a handgun with a valid handgun license, Miami's Chief of Police George Haralson wanted to make gun owners and business owners aware of Oklahoma Law 21OS 1290.22.
Oklahoma Law 21OS 1290.22 states,“Nothing contained in any provision of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, Section 1290.1 et seq. of this title, shall be construed to limit, restrict or prohibit in any manner the existing rights of any person, property owner, tenant, employer, or business entity to control the possession of weapons on any property owned or controlled by the person or business entity.”
“Business owners can restrict or prohibit someone from bringing a weapon into their business. They have a right to refuse them on their premises with a firearm,” Chief Haralson said.
According to Haralson business owners are not required to mark their business or post a notice if they don't want to allow the firearms on the premises. He said they could ask those carrying firearms to leave or to secure the firearm in their vehicle before entering the premises.
Haralson said from his perspective it would be beneficial to both gun owners and business owners if signage was clearly posted to clear up any confusion.
“From a public safety perspective, from a perspective of trying to enforce a fairly convoluted new statute, I would encourage business owners to acquire and place signage prominently on the entrances of their businesses,” he said.
“I just feel like this could very well prevent any misunderstanding or adversarial interaction,” Harlason added.
Oklahoma is the 25th state to allow “licensed open carry.” Open carry means that the firearm is carried in a manner that is clearly visible to others, such as in a holster. The law stipulates that the gun must be holstered, that the gun cannot be longer then 16 inches and limits a handgun to .45 caliber ammunition or smaller.
To carry a firearm openly or concealed the law requires a license from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation after attendance of an 8 hour course.
“Most of the changes in the new law simply removes the word concealed and changes it to open or unconcealed. I encourage people if they plan on carrying open, as the state statute will now allow, that they at least review the state law and be familiar with it and the restrictions as to when and where they can carry openly,” Haralson said.
Proponents for the open carry law argue that crime prevention and personal defense are reasons for passage of the law.
There are several places where open or concealed firearms are not allowed according to Oklahoma law. This includes establishments where low-point beer or alcoholic beverages are consumed and constitutes the primary purpose of the business. It is legal to carry a firearm with a license into a restaurant or other establishment that serves low-point beer and alcoholic beverages and where it is not the primary purpose of the business.
“What this means if you walk into a restaurant in Miami that in addition to food, does sell beer or alcohol as a part of their menu items but they don't derive more than 50 percent of their gross income off of the alcohol sales, well then they can legally carry it in,” Haralson said.
The Oklahoma law allows that no firearms can be carried into any structure, building or office space which is owned or leased by a city, state or federal governmental authority for the purpose of conducting business with the public.
Firearms will also not be allowed in any meeting of any city, county, state or federal officials, school board members, legislative members, or any other elected or appointed officials under the law.
The Open Carry law does not allow for guns in prisons, jails, detention facilities, elementary or secondary schools, any sports arenas during a professional sporting event, any college, university, or technology school property, or any place where pari-mutuel wagering is authorized by law.
Under Oklahoma SB 1733 local governments cannot pass any further ordinances to restrict or prohibit open carry of firearms.
In answer to what Chief Harlason anticipates as a result of the new changes to the law, he said, “There will be some unforeseen consequences.This will vet itself out in time.”
Harlson said he has some concerns over what will happen when police officers respond to a location to answer a call, for example for a robbery, and they will not know if someone with a gun is a law abiding citizen or a criminal.
“Police officers will not have time in these situations to walk up to you ask you if you have a permit to carry, they will need to neutralize the situation,” he said.
He also has concerns over weapons retention when carried by citizens, something officers are trained to be of high importance, he said, “You don't get that kind of training in the Self Defense Act course.”
“We will be getting a lot of calls, until the community becomes more familiar with the new law. There's not a law that's been passed that doesn't require a little bit of common sense,” Chief Haralson said.