OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — When 19-year-old Oklahoma State University student Adrienne O'Reilly crosses the Stillwater campus late at night, she says she often feels uneasy walking to her car alone in the dark and wishes she could carry a concealed handgun for protection.
O'Reilly may get that opportunity if a bill proposed by state Sen. Steve Russell becomes law.
The Oklahoma City Republican and Iraq War veteran is proposing several bills to expand gun rights in Oklahoma, including a measure to allow any adult to openly carry a firearm and another to permit concealed handguns on college campuses.
"We have these gun-free zone signs on the edge of our campuses, but all they do is prevent legal, law abiding citizens from carrying guns on campus," O'Reilly said. "Those signs don't do anything but create a cornucopia of defenseless citizens who become easy targets for these criminals."
Under Russell's proposal, anyone with a valid concealed handgun license would be allowed to carry a weapon on campus, although colleges or universities still would still be able to ban weapons at sporting events and other "access-controlled" events. The bill is expected to draw bitter opposition from university officials. Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson said all 25 public college and university presidents in Oklahoma oppose the idea.
"There is no scenario where allowing concealed weapons on college campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors," Johnson said in a statement.
More than 27,000 concealed weapon permits were issued in 2010, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
University of Central Oklahoma President Roger Webb, who served for 12 years as Oklahoma's commissioner of public safety, said he's not aware of any college president in the country who supports the idea of allowing guns on college campuses.
"It's one of the commonsense places where guns have not been allowed and shouldn't be allowed, and I'm a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment," Webb said.
Webb said college campuses are traditionally safe and that even in the event of an attack, armed students could make matters worse by confusing police.
"If there's an incident in a classroom and police are called, immediately your eye goes to a person who has a gun in their hand," Webb said. "You don't have time to ask, 'Excuse me sir, are you a good guy or a bad guy?' It's hard to make that judgment immediately."
Russell also has filed a bill that would allow anyone 18 or older to openly carry a holstered firearm, even if they don't have a concealed carry permit. An open carry bill passed the Legislature last year, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat who said police feared it would make their job more difficult.
New Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has indicated her support of an open carry law, although she has not taken a position on the plan to allow guns on college campuses.
"Opponents of this bill would imagine everyone is going to be Wyatt Earp out there carrying firearms and having gunfights in the street," Russell said. "That is just absurd."
Brian Malte, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Oklahoma has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, scoring only two points out of a possible 100 on its annual Brady State Scorecard. Those two points result from Oklahoma's ban of weapons on college campuses.
The group opposes both open carry and campus carry laws. While most state laws are silent or vague on the issue of whether residents can openly carry firearms, Malte said it creates a dangerous precedent.
"It creates a culture of fear and intimidation," he said. "Carrying without a license is also problematic. You're talking about people who may not have any training or proficiency with a weapon.
"The last thing you want is some untrained person caught in a tense situation utilizing their gun in a densely populated area, whether that's a college campus or a supermarket."Tags: