The Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma legislature is considering an override attempt of a vetoed bill that would have limited the ability of certain businesses to bar persons from legally carrying firearms while on their premises. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, vetoed Senate Bill 41 last week. The bill would have restricted the ability of businesses from banning guns at publicly-owned parks, fairgrounds, and recreational areas . . .
The bill would have inserted the following phrase (in boldface below) into Oklahoma’s firearms laws:
A property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity may prohibit any person from carrying a concealed or unconcealed firearm on the property, unless the property is within the specific exclusions provided for in paragraph 4 of subsection B of Section 1277 of this title. If the building or property is open to the public, the property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity shall post signs on or about the property stating such prohibition.
B. For purposes of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of subsection A of this section, the prohibited place does not include and specifically excludes the following property….
4. Any property designated by a city, town, county, or state, governmental authority as a park, recreational area, or fairgrounds; provided, nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to authorize any entry by a person in possession of a concealed or unconcealed handgun into any structure, building, or office space which is specifically prohibited by the provisions of subsection A of this section….
The purpose of the bill appears to be to ensure that public property remains open to legal carriage of firearms even when that property is leased by a private business. According to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, “[t]his loophole has been exploited by misguided municipalities, resulting in a ban on law-abiding citizens carrying a firearm on open areas of public land where they have a legal right to be.”
A veto by Governor Fallin of another firearms bill last year was successfully overriden by the legislature. The Oklahoman reports that Second Amendment activists in Oklahoma are hoping that history will repeat itself. But even though the bill was passed overwhelmingly — 88 to 4 in the House, and 39 to 7 in the Senate — it isn’t clear that the legislators are going to act.
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association encouraged members to contact Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman [a Republican] to push for an override vote. Bingman said he does not support the effort.
Sen. Ralph Shortey [also a Republican], a co-author of the bill, said the first priority is to see if the measure can be rewritten in a way that would meet with the governor’s approval.
“But if push comes to shove and we can’t find agreement or middle ground, then yeah, I’d support an override,” said Shortey….
Opposition to the bill appears to have come primarily from business interests, which argued that the bill could jeopardize sporting events that require firearms be prohibited such as NCAA basketball, Women’s College World Series softball and horse shows at the state parks.
Not being a particular fan of college basketball or softball, I can’t say that I am personally inclined to go to those events if I’d be prohibited from exercising my right to carry a firearm for personal self defense while on the premises. I suppose some people disagree; perhaps it is in their interests that Governor Fallin thought she was acting? The Oklahoman reports that the Governor cited concerns about passing a law while litigation was pending on the issue. To me, that seems like weak sauce — if the legislation is good, the fact that a court case may be mooted doesn’t seem like a good reason to veto it.
Tim Gillespie, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, analyzed the situation thus:
“I don’t necessarily think Fallin is anti-gun,” he said. “She is indifferent to the issue. If it’s convenient to sign it she will, if she has a reason not to, she won’t.
“She’s really not concerned about my God-given right to self-preservation.”
Advocates for the right to keep and bear arms are often lumped together in the traditional media with people who serve as advocates for large commercial interests. The truth is rather more complicated, as exemplified by this story. In fact, I’d say that the movement to preserve and expand legal protections of the right to keep and bear arms is at the bleeding edge of the fight for individual rights in America today.
We’re rocking the boat. Commercial interests tend to be conservative (with a lowercase “c”,) and often prefer to choose stability and avoiding hard questions, even if it means giving up a little liberty for the citizenry. It’s important that we never forget that point and — more importantly — to remind the political bosses of the country that whatever advantages that commercial interests provide, it is ultimately the votes of the people that let them have and keep their jobs.
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.