Bill would allow unconcealed firearms in state
A Broken Arrow lawmaker says it's identical to an Arizona law.

Rep. Mike Ritze: He says he introduced the bill in the state Legislature to fulfill a campaign pledge.

By RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/20092:24 AM
Last Modified: 2/13/20093:05 AM

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Oklahomans no longer would have to conceal handguns and other firearms under a bill being considered by the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said he introduced the legislation to bring Oklahoma in line with most other states and to fulfill a campaign promise.

"Many citizens have requested this," he said in a telephone interview from his Broken Arrow office Thursday afternoon. "I ran on this."

Ritze said his proposed legislation is identical to an Arizona law. It would allow anyone to carry a handgun, rifle or shotgun as long as it was in a holster, scabbard or case and "wholly or partially visible."

It would not require a license for openly carried weapons.

The bill could raise the image of Oklahomans wearing six-shooters strapped to their legs Old West-style.

But according to a recent USA Today story, Oklahoma is one of only six states without an open-carry law of any kind.

"We feel like Oklahoma is behind the times," Ritze said. "I work with the police all of the time. I have not found anybody opposed to this."

Although most states have some sort of open carry law, only 11 allow it under virtually all circumstances.

The organization OpenCarry says 18 states require an open-carry license. The remaining 15 open-carry states have other restrictions of some kind.

Law enforcement authorities aren't necessarily thrilled about open-carry laws.

Spokesman Leland

Ashley said the Tulsa Police Department does not comment on pending legislation.

But the Washington Post reported law enforcement responses ranging from confusion to incredulity after Virginia adopted an open-carry law in 2004.

Several people were mistakenly arrested, and when six men wearing sidearms arrived at a restaurant, near-panic ensued.

Rep. Lucky Lamons, a former police officer, said he was in Arizona last month and saw several people wearing guns.

"As a police officer, that's the first thing you see," he said. "But I saw no one else was concerned, so I relaxed."

Ritze said his bill clarifies existing law, which allows the carrying of weapons under certain circumstances and makes it easier for law-abiding residents to defend themselves.

"Criminals will not open-carry," he said. "Honest citizens will open-carry."

Of the six states without any open-carry law, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina are considering them this legislative session. Only Florida and New York are not, according to the USA Today story.