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October 31, 2012

Open-carry may cause misunderstandings

OKLAHOMA CITY — With Oklahoma preparing for a much-debated new law that allows people to carry their previously concealed firearms out in the open, state officials say they’ve seen a big increase in the number of residents seeking a handgun license.

Oklahoma’s open-carry law goes it effect Thursday. It allows the estimated 141,000 Oklahomans with a license to carry a concealed firearm to also carry their weapons openly in a holster or belt.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the law and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed it earlier this year.

Don Spencer, a certified firearms instructor and the deputy director of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association that lobbied hard for the new law, said he believes the increase in applicants is connected more to the deadly movie theater shooting in Colorado in July that left 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

“The interest in open carry is there, but when that (theater shooting) happened, my classes filled up, and I’ve heard the same thing from many other instructors,” Spencer said.

While the state’s increasingly conservative Legislature has been clamoring for open carry for years, the arrival of the new law is causing some consternation among law enforcement and businesses.

“There certainly is some concern,” said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, who was a Tulsa police officer for 27 years before being elected sheriff. “There’s a lot of unknowns, and the law enforcement profession has a lot of questions about this, and citizens have a lot of questions about it.”

Walton’s biggest fear is that the required one-day training course to obtain a handgun license is inadequate to properly prepare most people for the dangers associated with carrying a gun.

He also said problems could easily arise if someone inadvertently carries a gun into a prohibited place, such as a school or college campus.

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