OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma House committee on Tuesday approved measures designed to expand gun rights, including legislation that would allow residents with concealed weapons permits to bring their firearms into the State Capitol.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-6 for the measure and sent it to the House floor for debate and a vote. But opponents questioned the wisdom of authorizing residents to bring weapons into a building that is frequently the site of impassioned debate over public policy issues. Firearms are currently banned from the Capitol except for those carried by law enforcement officers.
“Why are we doing this? Are you serious?” Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, asked as the measure was presented by its author, Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso.
Derby said the Capitol is a public building and Oklahomans who have completed the training required to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon should be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights in the building.
“Tell me why we should stop them?” Derby said.
The measure would allow anyone with a valid handgun license issued through the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, or a valid handgun license issued by another state, to bring their guns into the Capitol building through security checkpoints staffed by Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and security officers that operate X-Ray and metal detection devices.
The committee approved an amendment that removed a provision from the bill that would have allowed people to bypass the security checkpoints after presenting a valid handgun license.
Law enforcement officers would not be authorized to remove or inspect any weapon or restrain any person carrying a properly concealed handgun without probable cause that a crime has been committed, according to the measure.
Opponents expressed concern that the bill could jeopardize the safety of everyone who works in or visits the State Capitol, one of the state’s most visited tourist attractions.
“This is serious for everybody in this room,” said Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Oklahoma City. Inman said armed state troopers already protect the safety of those inside the Capitol and suggested that the presence of additional armed people is not necessary.
Inman asked Derby if he would support legislation that would authorize Oklahomans with concealed carry permits to carry them into the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and board a plane. Derby said firearms regulations for commercial aircraft are the responsibility of the federal government, not the state.
Committee members also approved a bill by Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, that would lift the prohibition on allowing a concealed carry permit holder to leave the firearm in a locked vehicle in the parking lot of a public or private elementary or secondary school.
In addition, committee members passed a bill that would authorize state colleges, universities and technology centers to establish general policies for those with concealed carry permits to bring weapons on campus, instead of the current policy of providing written permission to each individual licensee.
A separate House committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would make it illegal for any federal employee or agent to enforce any U.S. regulations on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is manufactured in Oklahoma and remains within the state’s borders. The bill does not apply to firearms that take more than one person to operate or ammunition with exploding projectiles.
The U.S. Constitution gives federal laws precedence over state laws, and courts have consistently ruled against state laws seeking to supersede federal ones.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)