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February 3, 2014

Back in session: Gun rights, marijuana and abortion among state’s top issues

OKLAHOMA CITY — How Oklahoma lawmakers will appropriate the state’s scarce tax dollars is expected to top discussion during the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature.

But social issues such as gun rights, abortion and legalizing marijuana are also expected to stir debate, even as the state defends lawsuits that challenge social issue legislation passed by lawmakers in previous years.

In an election year, Republicans who have solid control of both the House and Senate will promote social agenda bills they believe are favored by the state’s conservative voters.

“They know in the primary, it’s the social issues that drive the train,” said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “They’re in charge, and they’re the ones who decide what gets passed.”

Several measures supporters say will strengthen Oklahomans’ right to carry firearms under the Second Amendment have been filed in the House and Senate. A measure authored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would allow citizens to carry firearms without a license.

“The Second Amendment says the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and yet when we require our citizens to jump through hoops, pay fees and undergo a process that presumes they’re guilty of something until proven otherwise, their rights are being infringed upon,” Dahm said.

Under the bill, anyone 18 or older would be able to open carry loaded or unloaded firearms without a license for hunting, target shooting or other such events. Places where guns are prohibited, such as schools and government facilities, would continue to be off-limits for firearms.

A bill by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, would prohibit Oklahoma schoolchildren from being punished for chewing their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun.

Kern said her bill, named the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act, was in response to school districts having policies that she says are too strict or inflexible. She cited a recent Maryland case where a boy was suspended from school for chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.

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