OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s governor has signed a controversial measure that attempts to pre-empt officials from enacting so-called “red flag laws.”
Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, allow law enforcement or families to ask judges to temporarily take firearms from individuals who might pose a danger to themselves or others.
Oklahoma’s new “Anti-Red Flag Act” prohibits municipalities, courts and counties from adopting policies restricting gun access through such protection orders.
State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said other states have expanded infringements on the Second Amendment and other constitutionally protected rights.
Following mass shootings, more than a dozen states have implemented red flag laws. Supporters say the policies are designed to curb gun violence and suicides.
Dahm, who authored the measure, said Oklahoma is the first state to pass an “anti-red flag” law.
He’s thankful Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 1081.
“Whether it is passing constitutional carry or opposing these stealth attempts at denying our due process, I’m honored to be continually leading the charge to defend the rights of Oklahomans and am pleased to see us be the first in the nation to pass this type of law,” Dahm said.
Critics of the measure though said Oklahoma lawmakers passed legislation catering to “gun extremists” in the final days of session.
Members of the Oklahoma chapter of Moms Demand Action said the red flag laws help prevent mass shootings by flagging those who have shown clear warning signs. The gun control group said such policies are also proven to reduce suicides.
The group said no Oklahoma localities have red flag ordinances.
“The risk of gun violence — including gun-related domestic violence and gun suicide — has persisted during this pandemic,” said Kay Malan, a volunteer with the group. “Rather than take steps to meet these risks, lawmakers quietly passed a policy intended to score points with extremists opposed to life-saving extreme risk laws.”
Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, said critics of the measure don’t take into account that people that need firearms for self-protection have been made defenseless without due process.
“We are extremely thrilled that the governor would remind the people of Oklahoma that he will do what he can to protect their due process rights,” Spencer said. “You just can’t take away a person’s rights without due process. It’s just a cornerstone of our judicial system. While you can’t protect every person every time, you can protect their rights.”
He said he’s hopeful other states will pass similar legislation.
State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, though questioned what happens now to irresponsible gun owners.
“When a gun owner isn’t exhibiting signs of responsible behavior, whether it is by domestic abuse or through a pattern of behavior that a court deems counter to responsible gun ownership, through due process, red flag laws give law enforcement an opportunity to mitigate a deadly situation before more people are killed or severely injured,” he said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.