Mass shootings spark new gun debate in state

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The Oklahoma Capitol rotunda. The Oklahoma legislature has expanded access to firearms over the past decade. (File photo)

Mass shootings at Saint Francis Hospital on June 8 in Tulsa, a Memorial Day festival in Taft, an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York have reignited the gun control debate fire.

Oklahoma House Democrats outlined a series of gun safety measures at a June 9 press conference, including proposals to repeal the state’s carry without a license law, rescind an anti-red flag law and to implement a waiting period for gun purchases. State Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said the caucus had asked to amend the next special session, which begins June 13, to include gun legislation.

“Now is the time to finally rethink how we write gun laws in this country,” Nichols said. “Everyone realizes that it’s not about partisanship. It’s just a matter of security. »

Republican legislative leaders did not immediately respond to Democrats’ request to review gun regulations. Don Spencer, president of the influential Second Amendment Association of Oklahoma, which often helps Republican lawmakers craft gun legislation, wrote in a Facebook post that the measures are unlikely to succeed.

Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled legislature has actually expanded access to guns over the past decade.

The most prominent example is House Bill 2597, commonly referred to as Oklahoma’s Unlicensed Carry Law, which went into effect in November 2019. It allows Oklahoma residents 21 or older to carry a gun set fire in public without obtaining a permit. Former Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a similar measure in 2018, citing security concerns for law enforcement.

Senate Bill 1081, authored by R-Broken Arrow State Sen. Nathan Dahm and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt in 2020, prohibits cities and counties from enacting red flag laws. The gun control measure, adopted by 19 states across the country, allows the public or police to ask a court to temporarily seize a person’s firearms if they are deemed a risk to themselves or for others.

As lawmakers moved to ease gun regulations, Oklahoma’s gun death rate rose 31.8% between 2014 and 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. . Firearm deaths resulting from homicides, suicides and accidental discharges are included in the firearm death rate.

The state ranks 12th in firearm mortality

With 20.7 deaths per 100,000 population, Oklahoma ranked 12th nationally for gun death rate in 2020. Federal data shows gun deaths have increased nationwide nationwide over the past eight years.

State and federal laws prohibit anyone convicted of a crime from buying or possessing a firearm. Persons found to be mentally incapable or whose mental capacity is challenged in court are also prohibited from acquiring a firearm.

Oklahoma does not impose timeouts for firearm purchases. The shooter who shot and killed four people at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa on June 8 purchased an AR-15 rifle an hour before carrying out the attack, police said.

Oklahoma Watch, at oklahomawatch.org, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that covers public policy issues facing the state.

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