Ready, aim, sustain

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Image of Gov. Brad Henry

Here’s part of Gov. Brad Henry’s statement about his decision to veto House Bill 3354, legislation that would allow people here to openly carry weapons:

I’m a strong supporter of the right to bear arms and have earned an A rating from the NRA, but this measure does nothing to strengthen 2nd Amendment protections. We already allow trained and licensed Oklahomans to protect themselves by carrying concealed handguns, and it doesn’t make anyone safer to wear a holster and display that weapon to the rest of the public. On the contrary, it makes it more difficult and dangerous for law enforcement officers to try to sort out the good guys and bad guys when they arrive at a crime scene.

Henry added this:

The legislation could also damage Oklahoma’s image as a safe, friendly state with a great quality of life, making it less attractive to new business and industry and negatively impacting future prosperity.

We know all the ideological arguments in favor of “open carry.” It’s all about Second-Amendment rights and freedom. But how can any reasonable person argue specifically against Henry’s positions? It’s both a law-enforcement issue and a state-image issue. The Oklahoma State Troopers Association opposes the bill. Many people will find it unsettling to see people walking around the streets with holsters and guns. This is just common sense.

Henry’s veto, like so many others this legislative session, is sensible . Let’s hope it can be sustained in any override attempts, which are expected this week, according to media reports. The bill, however, was passed with large majorities in the House and Senate.

In another prudent move, Henry vetoed HJR 1054 that would allow the state to opt-out of the new federal health care program. The bill would also require the Legislature to file a lawsuit against the new program.

In his veto message, Henry said:

By essentially stating that Oklahoma will not abide by new federal health care laws, HJR 1054 invites legal action against the state in a case it cannot win. No state has the authority to selectively ignore federal laws of its choosing, and any attempt to do so will be ruled unconstitutional by the courts, but not before a costly legal battle.

In the final analysis, HJR 1054 will not affect the administration of federal health care reform or assist supporters or opponents of the federal legislation. It will simply trigger an exercise in legal futility that results in a hefty bill for Oklahoma taxpayers and the potential loss of federal funding for important health care programs currently in place.

Henry’s last vetoes in office remind us how important it is that Oklahomans elect a Democrat as governor this year. Either of the leading Democratic candidates, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and Attorney General Drew Edmondson, would bring a balance to the Republican-controlled legislature. Some Republicans, no matter what, will continue to propose extremist legislation that embarrasses the state on a national level. That’s not going to change anytime soon. But if there is no counter, what will Oklahoma become?