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OK Constitutional Carry Laws Mean Tough Decisions For Police

An incident in Broken Arrow, Ok., raised fresh questions about how witnesses and law enforcement should respond when people walk around in public armed with assault-style rifles. On June 13, a man in a tactical vest with a semi-automatic rifle and holstered pistol prompted Broken Arrow Justice Center employees to lock their doors. AT&T store employees who saw the man proceeded to “run out the back of the store,” and multiple 911 calls came from the parking lot of a Target store that he was walking toward. Under Oklahoma’s constitutional carry laws, police determined that at each location the man “was not breaking the law” with the rifle and vest. “Quite honestly, nobody needs to be walking down the street with a rifle,” Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton told the Tulsa World about dealing with such situations. “But I don’t make the laws; we just try to live by them and do a very difficult job in a world that’s got those people in it.”

Enacted in early 2019, the constitutional carry measure gives Oklahomans the right to carry firearms without a permit or training. In the case of the man in Broken Arrow, police said that for three reasons — he didn’t have the firearms with him when he tried to enter the Justice Center, the AT&T store did not have a “no firearms allowed” sign posted, and he did not actually try to enter the Target — no laws were broken for carrying the semi-automatic rifle. “Here, we got a guy walking around with a gun that he could hurt a lot of people with, but he’s not breaking the law,” Walton said. That makes his deputies’ jobs “a lot harder” for several reasons, the most obvious being safety. His officers must decide when people are and are not a threat to public safety. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said there is also concern about people who purposely try to instigate issues with officers to start a Second Amendment fight. Kunzweiler said some people “want to push the envelope and draw a response.”


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