OKLAHOMA CITY – After successfully persuading lawmakers to eliminate firearm licensing and training last session, Second Amendment supporters say they’re now shifting their sights to college campuses.
But gun rights supporters acknowledge they’ll likely face a tougher fight in the Legislature. Advocates are urging lawmakers to remove restrictions that have long prohibited carrying firearms on college campuses.
Gun rights advocates unsuccessfully pressed for campus carry during at least six other recent legislative sessions, said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association. His group also championed 2019’s controversial legislation that allows Oklahomans to carry guns without licensing or training.
“There’s no way it will be easy, and it’s too bad because it’s going to happen,” Spencer said. “Even if doesn’t happen this year, it’s going to happen."
Glen Johnson, the state’s chancellor of higher education, said public colleges and universities support the Second Amendment and gun ownership but remain united in their opposition to campus carry.
“Our state system of higher education has a clear and united position – we oppose any effort that would alter the current law, under which the campus president has the discretion to determine who can carry weapons on a college or university campus,” he said in a statement. “The campus president is best suited to consider such requests. The current law is working.”
Spencer’s proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1567, would only allow handguns on campus, and those must be carried concealed. Anyone carrying on campus also would be required to first obtain a handgun license and training.
Spencer said gun rights advocates didn’t push campus carry last session because they were fighting for permitless carry and didn’t want to confuse the two issues.
Currently, it’s illegal to carry on campus without written permission of a university or college president.
“We support as many non-gun zones as possible,” Spencer said. “The non-gun zone is the most dangerous places a person can be. One (reason) is the vulnerability that people think they’re safe when a person can come into that zone armed and do substantial harm.”
He said the University of Oklahoma’s president issued him a one-day exemption in November when he visited campus to speak.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, did not respond to several requests for comment.
Officials with Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma also declined to comment.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.