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Effort to overturn Oklahoma gun law falls short

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans who circulated a petition to prevent the state’s new “constitutional carry” law from taking effect acknowledged Thursday that their efforts fell short.

Members of the Oklahoma chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Young Democrats of Oklahoma and others circulated the petition to stop the new law from taking effect Nov. 1. Passed by the Oklahoma Legislature earlier this year, the law will allow people to carry guns without having to first take training or file for a state permit.

Petitioners set out in August, in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to try to gather nearly 60,000 signatures of registered voters required to stop the law from taking effect and initiate a statewide vote on the issue. They were immediately challenged by the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association. That group’s president, Don Spencer, predicted the petitioners would fall short but said gun rights advocates were prepared to argue at the Oklahoma Supreme Court that the petition was presented in a misleading way to potential signers. Others who opposed the petition included Oklahoma Tax Payers Unite and the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee.

The office of Gov. Kevin Stitt had earlier issued a statement in support of state lawmakers who passed the “constitutional carry” legislation, House Bill 2597, with robust support in both the House and Senate. Oklahoma already has an open carry law.

“Oklahomans made their voices heard about their support for constitutional carry on the campaign trail and through the Legislature’s passage of SB 1212 last year and HB 2597 this year,” the statement said. “The governor supports the hard work and commitment of our legislators who listen to their constituents and implement legislation that reflects the will of the people.”

Jennifer Birch, a leader in Moms Demand Action, said it was still unclear Thursday afternoon how many Oklahomans signed the petition, but that the number would fall short of 50,000. She expressed disappointment but also pride in the fact that tens of thousands of signatures were garnered in a short amount of time. She added that supporters of the petition drive would regroup and possibly come back with another plan to try to make training and permitting mandatory for people who want to carry guns in Oklahoma.

“We’ll keep the momentum going and figure out a next step,” she said. “We’re just trying to get through this process right now and then will evaluate our options.”

An attorney for the petitioners, Brian Ted Jones, said it was estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 people signed the petition. He noted that supporters were turning copies of the petition in at the Office of the Oklahoma secretary of state right up until the 5 p.m. deadline Aug. 29.

State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, who helped spearhead the statewide, all-volunteer drive, said petitioners asked the secretary of state to complete a count of the signatures.

“We did something never before done in Oklahoma in the window of two weeks,” Lowe said. “I believe it sends a message to the state and to the administration that we reject this law.”

Lowe held out the possibility that the “constitutional carry” law might still be overturned through an initiative petition or even by way of a lawsuit.

“We don’t know what the parameters (of a potential lawsuit) might be, but there’s always that possibility,” he said. “But definitely we’re not going away on this issue.”

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