Despite opposition from a “coalition” including businesses and chambers of commerce across Oklahoma, three gubernatorial candidates with deep business and chamber of commerce ties told The Frontier they support passage of a controversial gun bill.
The candidates — Republicans Mick Cornett, Kevin Stitt and Todd Lamb — all told The Frontier they believe Oklahoma can grow and attract business while simultaneously loosening firearm restrictions.
The bill — known either as “permitless carry” or “constitutional carry” depending on where it’s being discussed — has been in front of Gov. Mary Fallin since early May. It would allow Oklahomans to carry a firearm, openly or concealed, without a permit or license as long as they were at least 21 years old (or 18 years old with military service.)
Fallin has three options — she can sign the bill into law, veto it, or “pocket veto” it by making no decision within a 15-day timeframe. Fallin’s spokesman, Michael McNutt, told The Frontier the bill was still “being reviewed.”
“Don’t have an estimate yet,” he said. “Her deadline is May 18.”
Meanwhile, the “coalition,” known as “Oklahomans for Business and Property Owners’ Rights,” has asked the Governor to veto the bill.
The group, which includes “50 associations, universities, businesses and law enforcement organizations,” penned a letter to Fallin earlier this month which stated the law would:
“negate the rights of business and property owners to prohibit guns from being carried into their businesses;”
“jeopardize the rights of event hosts to prohibit weapons at high-economic impact events;”
“eliminate or reduce the ability of colleges and universities to regulate weapons on campus;” and
“lessen the ability of law enforcement officials to protect the public’s safety.”
Despite that, Lamb, Cornett and Stitt all said they would like to see SB 1212 become law.
Lamb, as Lt. Gov, has developed close relationships with chambers and business leaders across the state in the last seven-plus years, and Cornett was deeply entrenched with the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce during his time as Oklahoma City mayor.
Lamb, in an email to The Frontier, said that he has “always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the rights of law abiding citizens to own, possess, and carry firearms.”
“Business leaders have long been aware of my proven position on this issue,” Lamb said.
“Nobody agrees with anyone on every issue. From my conversations, business leaders agree with my ideas about my proposed education reforms, my plan to diversify our economy and the changes I will make to our broken budget process.”
Stitt, a successful mortgage broker, said in an email that he talks “to other CEOS who tell me their number one concern in Oklahoma is our state’s dysfunctional government and mismanaged budget.”
“I also listen to and talk with Oklahomans every day out on the campaign trail, and they are staunch supporters of the Constitution and the Second Amendment. I believe Oklahoma can be both pro-growth and pro-Second Amendment.”
Will Gattenby, a Cornett spokesman, said “pro-second amendment and pro-economic development are not mutually exclusive ideas, especially in Oklahoma.”
“Mick Cornett partnered with multiple chambers of commerce during his tenure as mayor to a result of tremendous growth and the city becoming one of the most diversified local economies in the country,” Gattenby said in an email. “Mick looks forward to working with business leaders from chambers of commerce from across the state to bring the same success to every corner of the state, and they are supporting Mick’s bid to be our next Governor because of his proven leadership in achieving results as mayor.”
In its original form, the bill, authored by Republican Nathan Dahm, Broken Arrow, would have only allowed Oklahomans to carry a weapon in a “wildlife refuge or wildlife management,” and had nothing to do with “constitutional carry.” Outright “constitutional carry” bills had failed in previous years for many of the same reasons SB1212 is now being criticized.
However, the bill was amended at the last minute by Rep. Jeff Coody, R-Grandfield and passed by the state House of Representatives in late April. The Senate passed the bill on May 2.
Coody told the Tulsa World there was no “mandated training” because a “law-abiding citizen … would be extremely foolish not to seek training.”
One of the groups opposed to the bill is the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. In a release last week, the OSBI criticized the bill saying it would make it harder to “vet” someone in possession of a firearm beyond a “National Instant Criminal Background Check System” (NICS) “which occurs only (when) purchasing a firearm from a federally-authorized firearms dealer.”
NICS, the OSBI release stated, does not search local agency checks such as mental health reports or released offenders without fingerprints on file, public court records or “adjudicated delinquents.” It also does not search protective orders or other prohibitions like “drug abuse, violence or domestic abuse.”
There is “no way for law enforcement to distinguish lawful gun owners from unlawful gun owners and no recourse for law enforcement who encounter individuals with firearms unless caught committing a crime,” the OSBI release states.
Further, the OSBI would lose nearly $5 million of its yearly budget as permitting fees collected by the agency would evaporate.