A bill that would allow Oklahomans with concealed handgun permits to openly carry their weapons has drawn mixed reactions from law enforcement officers in Woodward.
House Bill 3354 passed the House Tuesday 74-24. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
“As far as bothering us, I don’t have a problem with it,” said Wendell Brandenburg, agent in charge with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, whose office is in Woodward. “We deal with felons and assume they have a weapon whenever we deal with them.”
“I can’t see where it would affect us in Oklahoma at all,” he said. “You’ve got your hunters and everything else.”
Woodward County Sheriff Gary Stanley disagreed.
While he has no problem with the concealed-carry law, Stanley said he's “not in favor” of open-carry.
“I think it’ll intimidate people," the sheriff said.
For example, “say you’re a cashier at a store and a scruffy looking person comes in wearing a gun,” he said. “They might be afraid they’re going to get robbed. I just see some issues that could cause people to be uneasy.”
Yet, Stanley admitted that people are already used to seeing law enforcement officers openly carrying guns.
"(But) people expect police officers to carry weapons," he said.
Where local law enforcement officers were mixed in their support for the open-carry gun bill, area legislators seemed to be in agreement.
State Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, voted in favor of the bill’s passage on Tuesday.
“There are already 13 or 14 states that have open carry, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island,” Hickman said of his reason for voting for the bill. “It’s not a new concept.”
“We have 97,000 Oklahomans who have a concealed carry permit,” he said. “I don’t see an issue there and I think from a public standpoint, it makes sense.”
State Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, said he approved of the bill because he thought it might help prevent crime. Marlatt explained that someone contemplating committing a crime might notice another citizen carrying a gun and then decide not to commit that crime.
If signed into law HB 3354 would also allow appellate judges who have a permit to carry a concealed handgun to carry their weapon to their offices at the state Capitol and in other courtrooms throughout the state.
District, associate district and special judges are already allowed to carry their weapon in county courthouses.