Attempt to Block Constitutional Gun Carry Fails
In his lawsuit, Lowe contends the law is unconstitutional because it violates the state’s “single subject rule,” which requires bills passed by the Legislature to only address one subject. However, when asked to explain how House Bill 2597 violates that constitutional requirement, Lowe was unable to give an answer.
The legislation by Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Kim David (R-Porter), passed the Oklahoma House 70-30 on February 13, and the Senate 40-6 on February 27. Gov. Stitt signed the bill within hours of its final passage. It was the first bill signed by the new governor. “Oklahomans are strong supporters of the Second Amendment, and they made their voice known as I traveled across all 77 counties last year,” said Stitt. The bill essentially restores what the state of law was in 1789, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and the modern United States came into existence.
The legislation allows the concealed or unconcealed carry of firearms by any person who is at least twenty-one years of age, or at least eighteen years of age and in the military, if the person is not otherwise disqualified from purchasing a firearm. Under the bill, you cannot carry a concealed or unconcealed handgun in public and private schools K-college, public or private sports arenas, gambling facilities, government buildings, or into private businesses, unless allowed by the owner. The bill maintains current law in that you must pass a background check to purchase a gun, that you must disclose guns in your possession when requested by a law enforcement officer, and that those convicted of a felony cannot own or buy a gun. Gun owners can still obtain a license in Oklahoma, with reciprocity recognized in multiple states across the nation.
On November 1, Oklahoma became the 16th state to allow constitutional carry. Oklahoma joins Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Vermont that allow the Second Amendment as an individual’s carry permit. The citizens of the 15 states where constitutional carry is allowed can carry without a permit in Oklahoma.
The legislation was one of the ten bills included on the 2019 Oklahoma Conservative Index rating state legislators. Representative Lowe scored 3 percent conservative in this year’s ratings, and has a 20% cumulative average for the whole time he has been in the Legislature.
On August 12, Representative Lowe filed a veto referendum petition. According to Oklahoma law, a veto referendum to repeal an approved bill can be filed within 90 days of the adjournment of the Legislature. The Legislature adjourned on May 24. Referendum Petition 26, was filed with the Secretary of State to place State Question 803 on the ballot. Lowe needed to collect and submit a minimum of 59,320 valid signatures on petitions by August 29.
Rep. Lowe worked with the Oklahoma Chapter of the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Young Democrats of America in the signature gathering effort. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a gun control advocacy group created under a larger umbrella group formed with $50 million from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt also publically promoted the petition. Holt is a former Republican member of the Oklahoma Senate. Holt had a 54% cumulative average on the Oklahoma Conservative Index.
Lowe and his allies delivered petitions on August 29 claiming to have close to the number of signatures required. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association (OK2A), 36 Republican legislators, and other groups of conservatives, aided by attorneys Kevin Calvey and Robert Robles, filed a brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the petition. They said that the petition “set forth blatantly false, misleading, and deceitful and inflammatory statements in order to deceive voters into signing.” they asked the court to invalidate the petition because the signatures therefore would not be valid. “They’re all invalid as far as we are concerned. That’s why we filed the protest. Because of the misrepresentation of gathering those signatures to begin with,” said OK2A president Don Spencer.
The Oklahoma Attorney General is responsible for defending Oklahoma laws. The AG’s office told the court in a written filing that the challenge to the wording of the petition would be moot if there were not enough signatures to put the law to a statewide vote. “If the Respondents did not submit a sufficient number of signatures to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General believes that this case will be moot and should be dismissed,” Oklahoma Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani told the court. The court asked the petition sponsors for two things. First, they wanted to know how many people signed the petition. And second, they wanted a response to the protest against the petition.
An attorney for the petition sponsors responded that they gathered between 30,000 and 50,000 signatures, which was far less than the over 59,000 signatures needed to qualify the question for the ballot. It has been reported that the specific signature count was about 37,000, but the number of valid signatures from registered voters was probably much less.
The lawsuit is still pending, but on October 30, Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews denied the plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the constitutional carry law from going into effect on November 1. Attorney General Mike Hunter released the following statement after the judges ruling: “We are pleased Judge Andrews ruled in our favor and did not grant a preliminary injunction, which will allow this law to go into effect on Nov. 1. My office is proud to defend the constitutional carry law against a political attack by plaintiffs who were unable to succeed at the legislature, unable to persuade voters in the referendum process and now seeking to overturn a duly enacted law with meritless claims and scare tactics.”
With the failure of the veto referendum petition, and if the lawsuit also fails, there is another option that may be attempted by gun control advocates. A initiative petition to place a measure on the ballot to repeal the new law could be undertaken.