The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 20, 2013

Legislation explores gun expansion

ENID, Okla. — Even as President Barack Obama proposes measures to restrict the type of weapons available to the general public, dozens of bills have been filed in the Oklahoma Legislature expanding who can carry weapons and where they can carry them, including parks, public meetings and schools.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb formed a task force to study and make recommendations on school safety. Lamb, a former Secret Service agent, will release the recommendations for legislative discussion.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said there is considerable discussion ongoing in the wake of the shootings in Connecticut. He anticipates a number of bills addressing the issue. However, he doesn’t expect any progress until the Lamb Task Force has made their recommendation.

“Lt. Gov. Lamb will to an excellent job at looking at school safety and looking at solutions that will keep children safe,” Anderson said.

Some of the bills filed will address issues that have arisen that need clarification. One example is the renting of cabins at state parks. There is a question on whether those who rent the cabin can carry a weapon because it is on state property. That has been a concern of some who have concealed carry permits, he said.

“There are some legitimate reasons to clarify the issues about where you can legally carry,” Anderson said. “I think we will find a middle ground on where you can and can’t carry.” Anderson does not think the issue will go as far as carrying weapons in public schools, but probably will approve carrying in state parks.

State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, said he has received hundreds of tweets from all over the state concerning protecting the Second

Amendment.

“We will see some pieces of legislation working their way through. We will vet all those issues and be sure we’re making the right decision for the state,” Jackson said. Public sentiment is strongly for gun legislation that loosens gun restriction laws. It is too early to tell where each piece will go, he said.

Jackson said one bill, HB 2021, exempts any ammunition made in Oklahoma from federal regulations. That bill may pertain to federal regulations approved by federal agencies, rather than Congress.

“The political sentiment in Oklahoma is we need to do something,” Jackson said.

Enid Superintendent of Schools Shawn Hime said it always is good to have a conversation about school safety and ways to improve it. He said he is encouraged that Lamb has a commission and does not expect anything until after the committee has released its report.

“It looks like there are a lot of good people working on that,” Hime said.

In Enid, there are 16 buildings, and each one has a committee dealing with that building. Fortunately, due to the bond issue, the school does not have many older buildings to increase security on. The building committees make plans and are assisted at the district level, which includes money for securing older buildings.

“With the recent bond issue, we were able to put in more security measures in more buildings,” Hime said.

State Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said he introduced a bill allowing the school board and superintendent to decide who they want to carry weapons in schools.

“I ran it last year, and it got nowhere,” Enns said. “Now, with the Connecticut thing, I’m being inundated with contacts saying, ‘you’ve got to help us out.’”

The bills that have been introduced cover everything from not taking a Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training class to just having a license. Enns thinks something productive will be done. He has talked with Lt. Gov. Lamb, who told him the committee is “looking at everything.”

Enns attended a statewide rally at the State Capitol Saturday, and he said there were many people there, including school personnel. He thinks the legislation has less to do with action by the Obama administration than the Connecticut school shootings, although some bills are in response to the administration.

Three years ago, Enns wrote a firearms freedom act, which passed both houses of the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Henry. That bill is authored by Anderson this year, and Enns will sponsor it in the House.

In all, more than two dozen bills were filed in the Senate to expand gun rights before Thursday’s bill filing deadline, and nearly that many were prepared in the House. The 2013 session opens Feb. 4.

“Clearly, in Oklahoma, we are strong supporters of gun rights and gun-ownership rights, and I think you’re going to see a lot of legislation protecting that, whether it’s my bill or other bills that are out there,” Anderson said.

Anderson has proposed a bill that would exempt Oklahoma-made guns and ammunition from federal regulations. Then-Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similar bill three years ago.

Freshman Sen. Nathan Dahm would take that further — declaring that the federal government has no right to regulate firearms in Oklahoma, that any attempt to do so “shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state,” and that violators face up to five years in prison.

“The Declaration of Independence guarantees us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “If you cannot protect yourself, you can’t continue to pursue liberty and pursue happiness.”

But Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said many traditional firearms restrictions are constitutional.

“Under well-settled Supreme Court precedent, a state has no power to declare federal law unconstitutional, much less declare enforcement of federal law illegal,” Thai said. “The bill’s novel and absolute declaration that all federal firearms laws violate the Second Amendment is not only flatly wrong as a matter of basic federal constitutional law, but also dead on arrival, because that declaration has no legal force and effect on the validity of federal law.”

Staff Writer Robert Barron and AP writer Sean Murphy contributed to this story.

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