Ready, Aim, Carry: But Please, Don’t Show Your Gun at Church

Oklahoma residents who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act will be able to bring their weapon out from beneath cover when the open carry law goes into effect on November 1. Senate Bill 1733 was authored by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and Governor Mary Fallin, was almost giddy to sign the measure.

“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a gun owner myself, I’m happy to sign this bill into law and grant law-abiding citizens the ability to openly carry firearms,” Fallin said.

To be clear, Oklahoma is not paving the way on this. There are 44 states that have some kind of open-carry law with varying degrees of limitations. The Oklahoma law falls squarely in the middle of that spectrum. Only those who already have met the requirements to carry a concealed weapon can play. That license requires a person to take a firearms safety and training course and submit to a background check by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Even with the law, it is still illegal to carry your gun at sports arenas, and on government, school, or college property. And you can’t unpack your heat if you’re a felon or been convicted of certain misdemeanors. Also, the law prohibits you openly carrying your gun if you’re under the influence of alcohol – so please keep that in mind if you are wasted and holstering your revolver as you stumble out the door.

Certain states – Arizona, for instance –  don’t require any permit or restriction on the type of weapon carried openly, but like other states, you may not tote your semi-automatic assault weapon into a school, liquor store, or government building. Other than that, welcome to Arizona and shoot straight! Other states, like Texas, do not allow their residents to carry openly under any circumstances (surprised?).

It’s only fair to note that there are only six states that do not have some kind of open carry law and we haven’t seen an outbreak of gunplay across the country in the other 44 states. Yet we have also not seen a significant drop in the crime rate in those states either. It seems that open carry might really be a neutral factor in whether gun violence is either up or down, which begs the question, “What’s the big deal either way?” I may be way off with this theory, but I’m thinking this may be more about the rights of an individual to carry their gun out in open than about whether carrying that gun actually benefits the society as a whole.

According to certain gun rights advocates, such as Opencarry.org, the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to “keep and bear arms,” is the foundation of support for the open carry law. “A right unexercised is a right lost,” says the organization. The group has active petitions in each of the six (now five) states that have not enacted the Open Carry law.

In an editorial posted April 15, 2010, OpenCarry.org co-founder John Pierce said this:

The phrase “open carry” refers to the act of law-abiding citizens carrying a properly holstered handgun in plain sight, wherever it is legal to do so, as they go about their daily lives. This includes such mundane tasks as driving to work, walking the dog, grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or buying a book at Barnes & Noble. Those who choose open carry are just going about their business while armed, just as do the 6 million-plus Americans who hold concealed-carry permits. The only difference—open carriers have taken their jackets off.

This statement makes me wonder if the author of the second amendment (James Madison), and those who ratified it would have been able to imagine a need for an open carry law in today’s United States. The second amendment was ratified only seven years after the Revolutionary War, when our country was still a land of militias and fearful of tyranny. We were in defense mode and finding our way as a new nation. Would the framers of the constitution be confused by a scenario in which a well-dressed citizen browsing in a modern-day suburban bookstore felt it necessary to open carry? Would they be more confused if they knew we hadn’t had a war on our soil in 147 years? I’m busily preparing an explanation of this scenario to my 11 year old just in case we’re standing next to that guy in the biography section of Barnes & Noble. “He’s exercising his second amendment rights,” I’ll say to her. “Because he can.” I’m afraid that any other explanation perpetuates the fear that it seems we are living under in this country.

I’m also preparing her for the day that we slide into the pew at church and find ourselves next to someone who is openly carrying a firearm. Recently, a friend of mine who is a pastor told me that he knew of a handful of his congregants who carried their weapons into church on Sunday mornings. Of course, no one would know this because up until November 1 they are required to conceal the weapons. After that, they will be free to “take their jackets off” and show the world that they are armed and ready to defend.

If there are people like this in my church, I just hope that on the day my daughter sits next to one of the gun-toting congregants we aren’t reading a passage like, say, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” That’s Jesus speaking. And I don’t have any idea how to reconcile any open carry scenario with those words.

About Lisa Tresch, Contributor

Lisa Tresch is editor of Mia magazine, a quarterly storytelling journal for women. Lisa graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University with a B.A. in Journalism. She worked as a City Desk reporter and features writer for the Tulsa World before launching a freelance writing and editing business. In 2009, she entered the world of magazine publishing as a partner in The Leslie Group, and began editing Mia in 2009. She keeps a tenuous balance of competing passions: writing, editing, blogging, photography, advocating for orphans, and coordinating social media for a non-profit. Some of these things she does better than others, but she is most passionate about her role as the mother of three amazing children and the wife of her college sweetheart.