Open Carry, Open Season

Image of Mary Fallin

"If there is one thing that has increased crime, it's been the automatic pistol. It's made no practice necessary to be an outlaw. . . ."—Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers.

I know I’m a lone voice crying out in the wilderness in red-state Oklahoma, but the new law allowing people here to openly carry weapons in public is a terrible mistake based exclusively on ideology and false claims.

Here’s the conservative fear-mongering trope: The government is coming after your guns so we have to pass laws to make sure there are as many guns in as many hands as possible and anything less than complete worship of all firearms and all the magic they do is tantamount to treason. I guess that makes Will Rogers a traitor.

Of course, about 100,000 people in this country are shot by guns each year, and some 31,000 are killed, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but that fact wasn’t part of the debate over the new law. Since 1968, more than a million people have been killed by guns in this country, but that fact wasn’t part of the debate either.

The state’s corporate media did an absolutely awful, one-sided job covering Senate Bill 1733, the “open carry” measure, and its ramifications. Buried in all the media-vaunted GOP rhetoric were small bleeps of protests, but journalists here never appropriately tackled the issue of gun violence and how it remains a scourge in our culture.

In fact, Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to sign the bill into law was heralded as a huge victory for Oklahoma citizens, who will soon be able to wear a holster and pack heat in public. Who cares about education or the fact the state Capitol is literally crumbling away? It’s all about the guns.

But the real issue here for the heat-packing, badass patriots is the orgiastic celebration of the Second Amendment, never mind the other 26 amendments, which include things like abolishing slavery or giving women the right to vote or freedom of speech.

In her signing statement, Fallin said:

As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a gun owner myself, I’m happy to sign this bill into law and grant law-abiding citizens the ability to openly carry firearms. Senate Bill 1733 sends a strong message that Oklahoma values the rights of its citizens to defend themselves, their family and their property. It does so in a responsible way, by requiring those citizens who choose to ‘open carry’ to undergo both firearms training and a background check.

Let’s be clear: The Second-Amendment hysteria is contrived and is used as a conservative political trope to manipulate low-information voters. No one is coming after anyone’s guns. People already have the right to defend themselves.

Note Fallin’s language that the bill “sends a strong message that Oklahoma values the rights of its citizens to defend themselves, their family and their property.” How in the world does the bill do that? People can already defend themselves, family and property with guns. How does this new law make it any different?

As I’ve written before, the new law, which takes effect Nov. 1, could make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to sort out a crime scene, increase the number of accidental shootings and hurt the state’s image. Who wants to see a gang of gun-toting Second-Amendment cowboys walking down the streets because a “right unexercised is a right lost.” Who wants to see a group of young men openly packing heat walking in their neighborhood because, well, because now they can? Don’t think that will happen? It’s going to happen. Welcome to Oklahoma, which already has its share of historical and new image problems.

Here are some more facts from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.

Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States.

Gun violence impacts society in countless ways: medical costs, costs of the criminal justice system, security precautions such as metal detectors, and reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence. These impacts are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.

Oklahoma’s new open carry law is an endorsement of these terrible statistics and is as much a quasi-celebration of violence and death as it is a measure that supposedly promotes self-defense.

Everyone here can have their guns, and we can have reasonable gun control laws, too, but the entire open-carry movement is not based on anything but emotional appeals as part of the larger, overall conservative movement. Expect to see an expansion of open carry here next legislative session. This is not the end of illogical gun laws in Oklahoma. It’s only the beginning.