The Republican governor of one of the reddest states in the Union just vetoed a law that would have allowed gun owners to carry a gun without a permit or training, exposing a schism between Second Amendment supporters over limits in the use of guns in public.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill late on Friday, which was supported by the National Rifle Association. The idea of carrying a gun in public without a permit, which some call “constitutional carry,” has caused a divide among gun rights supporters. They argue allowing anyone to open carry without a permit or training will embolden criminals to use guns more often, while handicapping police officers, who would not question suspicious individuals carrying guns over possible charges of profiling and racism.
Most police and sheriff’s departments oppose constitutional carry.
Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill late Friday that would have authorized adults to carry firearms without a permit or training, dealing a rare defeat to the National Rifle Association in a conservative state.
The veto comes after opposition from the business community and law enforcement authorities, including top officials with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation who have said it could erode public safety.
The NRA had supported the bill’s passage and had urged Fallin to sign it.
In a statement detailing her reasoning, Falli said “Oklahoma is a state that respects the Second Amendment. As governor, I have signed both concealed-carry and open-carry legislation. I support the right to bear arms and own a pistol, a rifle, and a shotgun.
“Oklahomans believe that law-abiding individuals should be able to defend themselves. I believe the firearms requirement we current have in state law are few and reasonable. Senate Bill 1212 eliminates the training requirements for persons carrying a firearms in Oklahoma. It reduces the level of the background check necessary to carry a gun.
“SB 1212 eliminates the current ability of Oklahoma law enforcement to distinguish between those carrying guns who have been trained and vetted, and those who have not.
“Again, I believe the firearms laws we currently have in place are effective, appropriate and minimal, and serve to reassure our citizens that people who are carrying handguns in this state are qualified to do so.”
The bill is similar to so-called “constitutional carry” legislation adopted in a dozen other states. It would have authorized people 21 and older and military personnel who are at least 18 to legally carry a handgun, either openly or concealed, without a state-issued license or permit.
The state currently requires a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed.
The bureau of investigation, which issues handgun licenses, had said the bill would cost the agency about $4.7 million annually and result in the loss of about 60 full-time positions.
“The impact on public safety is unquantifiable,” bureau Director Bob Ricks said in a statement.
Many business leaders, including local chambers of commerce, also opposed the bill, giving the governor — who cannot run for re-election under term limits — plenty of political cover to veto it.
The Legislature already has adjourned its session so lawmakers will not be able to revisit the issue until next year after the election of a new governor.
The hot-button issue of gun rights energizes Republican voters, particularly those in Republican primaries, said Trebor Worthen, a Republican political strategist.
Several Republican candidates to succeed Fallin as governor urged her this week to sign it.
“Republican voters believe in the Second Amendment and they believe they should be able to exercise that right with as little interference from the government as possible,” Worthen said. “Especially in more rural areas.”
Fallin has vetoed gun bills before. In 2014, she vetoed a bill requiring state authorities to sign off on applications for federally-regulated items such as silencers, short-barreled rifles and automatic weapons within 15 days. But the Legislature overrode her veto and the bill became law anyway. In 2015, she vetoed legislation that restricted businesses from banning guns at parks, fairgrounds and recreational areas, a veto that remained in place.
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