Criminal Justice , Law & Principles
Ray Carter | June 2, 2022
Oklahoma Democrats call for gun control
Following a Tulsa shooting that took the lives of four individuals (not counting the shooter), members of the state House Democratic caucus are calling for new gun-control measures to be passed as part of a pending special legislative session.
“People want to fight for the Second Amendment. That’s fine,” said state Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. “But sometimes you go too far.”
Democrats called for repeal of various open-carry provisions in Oklahoma law that allow private citizens to have a weapon outside their home, passage of a “red flag” law that allows officials to seize weapons from citizens if certain allegations are raised against them, an expansion of background checks, an extended waiting period for gun purchases, and raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21.
State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, said the proposal would also call for mandatory training “for individuals who purchase AR-15s.”
However, critics quickly noted that the Democrats’ proposals would likely have had little or no impact in preventing the Tulsa shooter from committing his crime.
“None of it would have stopped him,” said Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association (OK2A).
Michael Louis, who has been identified as the shooter who killed four individuals on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, was older than 21 and apparently purchased his weapons legally.
As a result, Spencer noted the Tulsa shooter either would not have been subject to the proposed gun-control measures or already actively ignored the proposed gun-control measures in the commission of his crime.
“People want to fight for the Second Amendment. That’s fine. But sometimes you go too far.” —State Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa)
“Red flag” laws typically allow government officials to seize weapons from individuals alleged to be a danger to themselves or others, but who have not been arrested for or convicted of any crime.
However, several prominent mass shootings have been committed by individuals who had no “red flags” raised in advance, and opponents of “red flag” laws say they have also deprived citizens of basic constitutional rights when others deliberately filed false reports, which is a problem that can plague such systems.
A 2020 review by the Rand Corporation found that no qualifying studies showed “red flag” extreme-risk protection orders decreased any of the eight outcomes reviewed, including violent crime, unintentional death, mass shootings and suicide.
During their press conference, Democrats painted a picture of rampant gun violence in Oklahoma.
State Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, decried the “lessening of gun control” in Oklahoma—an apparent reference to the passage of laws that increased the ability of law-abiding citizens to carry a weapon for protection—and claimed that people now face the “great possibility” of “being murdered” while doing normal, everyday activities.
State Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said Oklahomans have “access to weapons of war, to semi-automatic rifles that can cause this kind of damage in a limited amount of time before the ‘good guy with a gun’ even has time to show up.”
However, experts have long noted most guns used in the commission of crimes are not military weapons, including the AR-15 rifle.
In 2018, E. Gregory Wallace, a professor of law at Campbell University School of Law, noted that “no national military force actually uses the AR-15 on the battlefield.”
In addition, pro-Second Amendment officials have noted that law-abiding citizens have used weapons to stop many crimes, including attempted mass shootings.
The Crime Prevention Research Center notes that an attempted mass shooting in Charleston, West Virginia, was quickly ended on May 25 when a woman lawfully carrying a pistol shot and killed a man who had started shooting at a crowd with an AR-15-style firearm.
“Today, we need to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens more than ever.” —State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair)
A similar event occurred on Oct. 22, 2021, at South Central, Nebraska, when a former employee of a grain complex returned to the facility and started shooting, killing two and injuring another, before the attacker was shot and killed by another employee.
On Aug. 31, 2021, in Syracuse, New York, a man opened fire on a crowd but was stopped when an individual with a pistol permit returned fire, killing the attacker.
On Aug. 11, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas, a woman crashed into a parked car and emerged from it firing indiscriminately at people. An armed resident returned fire and killed her, ending the spree.
Spencer said the right of law-abiding Oklahomans to defend themselves must be preserved and expanded in light of recent events, not restricted.
“The only change in gun laws we are going to work on is strengthening the rights of the private-property owner and the schoolteachers to be able to defend themselves,” Spencer said. “That’s what we’re going to work on.”
Democrats said they believe Republican lawmakers will now embrace gun-control measures, suggesting many lawmakers previously supported pro-gun measures out of political expediency and a mistaken belief that mass shootings would not occur in Oklahoma.
“My hope is that what folks saw as kind of abstract ideas to help them get re-elected, they now see the error of those ways,” Nichols said.
But pro-Second Amendment legislators say they have supported pro-gun-rights measures because of the reality that violence—including mass shootings—can occur, and they do not want law-abiding citizens left at the mercy of depraved killers.
“Anytime someone commits violence against others with a gun or any weapon, it is a tragedy,” said state Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, an Adair Republican and former schoolteacher. “It is the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, and owning and carrying a gun for self-defense becomes all the more important as our society, our culture, seems to be transforming from one that respects the law and values human life and embraces good moral values to one that is self-obsessed and self-destructive. Today, we need to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens more than ever.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.