Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 26, 2012

Official: Open and concealed carry permit applications up markedly

STILLWATER, Okla. — Law enforcement agencies are bracing for the unknown as revised open and concealed carry gun laws draw closer to reality.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed the open carry law in May, and it will go into effect Nov. 1. The measure amends the existing concealed carry permitting license to allow for weapons to be carried openly.

Payne County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Kevin Woodward said the department already noticed a two-fold increase in applications for open carry permits.

Woodward said he expects an increase in gun-related calls.

He said businesses that don’t want people carrying firearms into their stores or offices to post signs and call law-enforcement agencies if customers refuse to comply.

Law enforcement officers, Woodward said, are concerned that guns toted openly in holsters may be easy targets for thieves.

Woodward said officers go through gun-retention training and have expensive holsters that have safeguards to prevent lawmen from being disarmed.

It’s a very real threat, Woodward said, as he has had individuals attempt to take his gun while on duty. He encouraged residents to take gun-retention classes.

Stillwater’s Director of Public Safety Norman McNickle said the city’s officers will receive training on the open carry law. The police department is waiting for attorneys to interpret the law.

McNickle said the legislature deemed gun-retention training unnecessary.

“Regardless of whether law enforcement sees this issue as a concern, the modified act is now law,” he said, adding he considered it prudent for anyone carrying a firearm to seek advanced training in all areas of firearm use.

“The state-required course to be permitted to carry is very limited in scope,” McNickle said.

Gun store owner Tom Smith said he has seen an increase in gun sales and firearm class enrollment as news of the law spread. Stillwater Armory classes are booked for the next three months. Typically, those classes are filled a month in advance.

Smith’s store offers the eight-hour course required to carry a concealed weapon as well as other advanced firearm training. The course includes six hours of classroom work in which students learn about the laws, self-defense and how to safely handle a firearm. Students then fire rounds at Stillwater Armory’s range.

Smith said it is important to teach gun owners to only use their guns to defend themselves and those close to them. He said the goal of open carry and concealed carry is not to deputize civilians and create vigilantes.

“We never encourage running toward the trouble,” he said.

While Smith shared some concerns with law enforcement about open carry, he said they are small compared to the benefits.

“Open carry serves as a deterrent,” Smith said, adding the law could make criminals think twice when they see residents with firearms.

While concealed carry laws allow people to be safer by giving them the tools to defend themselves, Smith said carrying a weapon openly can prevent criminals from trying anything in the first place.

Smith said he would advise businesses to let people carry guns into their stores or offices. Businesses that post signs against it are asking for trouble.

“You’re announcing to anyone with criminal intent that this is a defense free zone,” Smith said.

Smith said he doesn’t consider gun-retention to be a major concern.

“I would be more concerned about looking both ways before I cross the street,” Smith said, adding he and his employees searched FBI and law enforcement databases for cases where private citizens in open carry states had their weapons snatched from them. He said they couldn’t find one.

“It is easy to come up with anecdotal evidence,” Smith said, adding he doesn’t believe it is impossible, just very unlikely.

Smith advised those who plan on carrying openly in November to be patient with the public and law enforcement as they adjust to the new laws. He said there will likely be some apprehension and some could have concerns.

“That’s not the time to stomp your foot and say that it is your right,” he said. “That’s a great opportunity to educate the population about the benefits of carrying a firearm.”

He predicts many in Oklahoma will initially overreact but soon get used to the new law and find nothing bad comes of it.

Smith said gun owners and those planning to openly carry firearms should continue to train to maintain their skills.

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