Tahlequah Daily Press

November 26, 2012

If you carry, then stay safe


TAHLEQUAH — A couple of weeks ago, Oklahoma’s new “open carry” firearms law went into effect. And while there’s been a bit of hullabaloo in some quarters, the law hasn’t changed that much from its original status. Now, instead of carrying a concealed weapon, Okies and their licensed friends and family from other states can carry them in holsters or over their shoulders. Indeed, several business owners have told the Press they’d prefer to “see” the guns rather than wonder if each customer has one hidden.

Senate Bill 1733 strikes the word “concealed” from the original text. In general, carrying a loaded or unloaded weapon is still illegal, unless the carrier has a state-issued handgun license. Business and property owners can also carry guns openly on their own property, and they can prohibit others from carrying guns onto that same property. That latter stipulation has met with objections of some local gun owners, who believe if they have the license and latitude to carry guns, they should be able to carry them anywhere they choose. That’s a puzzling attitude. Many people who pushed for the ability to carry guns, either openly or concealed, did so because they believed it was a matter of personal liberty – a freedom they are granted and guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

If “freedom” and “liberty” are the buzz words , it seems logical they would apply to a business owner who would prefer his customers not be packing. After all, if an entrepreneur can make the demand of “no shirt, no shoes, no entry,” why can he not refuse service on the basis of gun possession? And though businesses don’t technically have to put up a sign to ban firearms, it’s prudent and courteous to customers to make that policy plain. Some gun owners have said they won’t do business in a place where their weapons aren’t welcome. In tit for tat fashion, others say they won’t enter a store where firearms are allowed. For many business owners, it’s a no-win scenario.

There are other places where firearms are banned. While some gun owners don’t like it, others see the wisdom of prohibiting guns at venues where tempers are likely to flare, or where large crowds could lead to mayhem, even if the one brandishing the weapon is among the most responsible and best-trained individuals. These include city, state and federal buildings, and places where governmental bodies or entities meet or conduct business; school properties and school buses; bars, taverns and clubs where drinking is the primary endeavor; professional sporting events or gambling venues; and colleges, universities and tech centers, except under certain circumstances.

The ability to carry guns is always going to be a hot-button issue - even in a state like Oklahoma, where most people have guns, and where a solid percentage of those who own them believe they should have the right to tote them around. But they should also respect the feelings of those who fear the proliferation of guns could be a recipe for trouble, and who can readily refute those who claim that if every law-abiding citizen carried a gun, we’d all be safer.

The public can only ask what is reasonable: that respect be accorded to all people for divergent opinions, and those who carry guns be careful with this privilege. There are stories of well-meaning people whose own weapons have been turned against them. Let’s everyone do their part to make sure we’re all safe.