OKLAHOMA CITY -- A House Democrat wants voters to decide if the state should press forward with a controversial law that will soon allow Oklahomans to carry guns without any licensing or training.
State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, said if he and other gun-control supporters can collect more than 59,000 signatures by 5 p.m. Aug. 29, the state's new so-called constitutional carry law wouldn't be implemented until voters can decide whether to accept or reject it in 2020.
The law, which takes effect in November, allows anyone at least 21 years old without a felony conviction or other criminal records to carry openly with no permitting, licensing or training. The bill does not allow people to brandish firearms nor does it change where Oklahomans can legally carry. For instance, people would still be prohibited from carrying on college campuses.
Lowe said he believes the Legislature got it wrong when they decided to remove training and permitting requirements. The measure easily cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers voted largely along party lines with Democrats opposing the plan.
"If this bill becomes law on Nov. 1, there is a strong possibility that our great state could carry the title 'Wild, Wild West' where situations are resolved with gunfire and gunfights," he said. "Furthermore, if the Legislature believed that this bill is such a great idea, why aren't we allowing guns at the Capitol?"
Lowe said he believes the majority of Oklahomans will do what's right, but if even .01 percent of the population is unstable and armed, almost 400 people could take a life.
The announcement comes more than a week after shootings in Ohio and Texas that left scores dead or injured. In the days since, some critics of the measure have called for its repeal.
"Constitutional carry has nothing to do with these shootings," said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, which championed the measure.
He said the support for constitutional carry remains popular with lawmakers and has polled well with Oklahomans. But Spencer said he's not surprised "a socialist wants to take away our rights." Lowe already has an "F" rating with his organization, he said.
"There is not a chance on God's green earth that that will ever appear on a ballot with the presidential race in 2020," Spencer said. "Oklahomans have awaited 112 years to get their rights back and will not dillydally around at a voting booth to get them taken away."
When the law takes effect, Oklahoma will become the 16th state to allow it, supporters say. Gun owners must still acquire a permit to legally carry in some other states.
Jennifer Birch, a volunteer leader with the gun-control group Moms Demand Action, said it's "a dangerous law."
"Permitless carry jeopardizes public safety and makes it easier for people with dangerous histories to carry guns in places that children and families frequent every day," she said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.