By Alyssa Sperrazza
A Senate panel passed a gun measure that would allow people to carry a firearm without a permit or training.
House Bill 2597, commonly referred to as Constitutional Carry, was approved by the appropriations committee on Wednesday by a 18-4 vote. The bill was co-authored by several representatives including Canadian County’s Rep. Jay Steagall (District 43) and Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader (District 41).
Steagall said this is a constitutional bill and is about protecting citizens’ rights to bear arms.
“I knew that I was going to be facing some constitutional legislation and was going to have to cast a vote, either in favor or against that, so for me personally, I cannot reconcile a ‘no’ vote on a constitutional bill with my oath of office,” Steagall said. “The bill itself is a constitutional bill that happens to be related to firearms. But this week it’s firearms. Next week it could be freedom of speech or freedom of the press or freedom to assemble. Whatever constitutional right we want to pick out. And in no circumstance will I vote for a constitutional bill in a negative manner. My job here as a representative for my district is to support and defend all of their rights. So I will gladly support any constitutionally-related bill in that manner.”
There have been concerns brought up revolving gun safety and Steagall said he knows it’s a sensitive topic for some. National political figures have been trying to figure out an adequate response to the number of mass shootings that have occurred in recent years including Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, the shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 and most recently the Parkland shooting in 2018.
These events have caused an even deeper divide between those who are adamantly in support of the Second Amendment and those who believe the country needs more restrictive gun laws.
While the bill would remove the required permit necessary under current law to own a gun, Steagall said he always encourages gun owners to receive more training. However, he acknowledged the training is not something the law can constitutionally require.
“I know the concerns [being] talked about and everybody’s concerned about the training but our constitutional right to keep and bear arms does not require someone to seek training out,” Steagall said.
“Now, as a guy that owns a gun store and has a gun range and offers those courses, I will always encourage someone to go get more firearms training because we want to raise responsible firearms owners. And we want people to understand the law before they ever go to court for a self-defense case, but that training is incumbent upon the individual. There are already 15 other states that have a constitutional carry law in place and what we’ve seen out of those 15 states is that crime rates actually drop and permit sales, generally speaking, have gone up. So we don’t see this necessarily as a revenue loser for OSBI. We see this as a restoration of everyone’s constitutional rights, even for those who would oppose it.”
Governor Stitt has voiced his support for the bill already, reaffirming his support for constitutional carry which he spoke of during his campaign.
The bill does have some restrictions already listed. For instance, a constitutional carry law would not allow certain groups to carry or own a gun. Those groups include those officially diagnosed with mental illnesses, felons or someone with a domestic violence conviction.
House Bill 2597 would still allow private property owners to prohibit firearms and guns, and firearms would still not be allowed on college campuses or in other designated areas.
The bill may be heard on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday.