Friday, May 21, 2010

An Open Letter on Open Carry

This is an open letter to the following group of Oklahoma State Representatives:

Turncoats, changed vote from Yea to Nay:
Auffet ( D) (405) 557-7394
Carey (D) (405) 557-7366
Glenn (D) (405) 557-7399
Hoskin (D) (405) 557-7319
Inman (D) (405) 557-7370
Luttrell (D) (405) 557-7355
Rousselot (D) (405) 557-7388
Shoemake (D) (405) 557-7373

Present, but did not vote:
Buck (D) (405) 557-7383
Hilliard (D) (405) 557-7412
Kirby (R) (405) 557-7356
Morgan (D) (405) 557-7368
Morrissette (D) (405) 557-7404
Nations (D) (405) 557-7323
Smithson (D) (405) 557-7315

Dear Representatives,

I am writing you this letter today as a concerned citizen of the state of Oklahoma, former state representative for grassroots gun-rights organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, and as a holder of a concealed handgun license. House Bill 3354 was a very important piece of legislation to many gun owners and Oklahoma Citizens licensed to carry firearms. Not only would it have allowed those of us with concealed handgun licenses to carry our firearms openly, it would have strengthened language in place designed to protect our privacy, and it would have allowed appellate judges to carry firearms in their places of business - the courthouses.

This piece of legislation passed the Oklahoma Senate with a veto-proof majority of 33-15, and the Oklahoma House with an even more veto-proof vote of 74-24. Unfortunately, Governor Brad Henry, for reasons unknown to myself, took it upon himself to veto this bill. Many of your citizens - voting citizens I might add - were in high hopes nonetheless because we knew the bill passed with veto-proof majorities, and assumed that you would all stay true to your votes and the veto would be overridden. Imagine our surprise when this did not happen.

The great decision I face at this point is not one of what to do next; I already know what that will be. I will continue my push for the rights of Oklahoma citizens as I have for years. No, the great decision I face is to decide which group of elected officials has committed the greater evil here. We have on the one hand the first group above, who seem to have inexplicably changed their standpoints in a matter of days. This group could have easily swung the tide in the favor of our rights, but they changed their minds and decided to vote against the bill they supported only days ago!

Then we have the second group who committed what may have been an even greater evil: apathy. This is a very important issue for many Oklahomans, and yet this second group saw fit to not even vote on the issue even though they were present. To take a stand against gun rights is one thing. Misguided, yes, but at least it shows you're willing to take a stand for something. But to show such apathy as to not vote? I have to ask myself why you are in such a position in the legislative body if you do not exercise your duty to the people who voted you into that position.

To these two groups of legislators, I pray that you'll come to your senses, that some of you will learn to stick to your guns, and that some of you will find guns to stick to. But now I have to address what I feel is the most heinous violation of the trust placed in our legislature by any of you. For this I'm not addressing a group, for this I will call out Representative Glen Bud Smithson.

Rep. Smithson you said of those supporting open carry the following: "Most people who are confident in themselves don’t need to strut down the street showing everybody their gun. Why do they need to show everybody their gun? Because most of them are cowards." Representative, I must say I am absolutely appalled that such a crass statement would make its way to the public ear. You, sir, are a breed of the most cowardly type yourself. You lead the life of an elected representative, who I'm sure has protective measures in place for yourself and your family, and make such bold and insulting statements about the very people you voted in!

You stand on your podium and insult those who disagree with you, yet you apparently do not have the bravery to back up your own statements, because you didn't even vote on the bill. If you have the gall to make such statements about the citizens of this state, I would think you would have it in you to at least take a stand when the bill came around, but I must have been mistaken. You speak the words of an opinionated and hateful man, yet can't even back them up with a vote. That, to me, is just disgraceful.

Around 97,000 Oklahomans have licenses to carry firearms. Are you really willing to insult 97,000 voting citizens of this state? We are not cowards by any means sir, far from it. We are citizens who will not bow to the will of the common criminal and give in to their demands. We will stand and fight for what we have worked for, we will fight to defend our families and we will fight to defend our very lives against the criminals to whom laws mean nothing.

Holders of concealed handgun licenses are among the most upstanding, law-abiding citizens in this state and in this nation. We have taken upon ourselves the great responsibility of carrying a weapon with which to defend the many ideals we stand for. I will say again Representative Smithson: we are not cowards. We - unlike you - have the means, motivation and wherewithal to back up our boldness.

Now again to the entire group, and to any who read this open letter. Oklahoma is one of few states which currently forbids expressly the open carrying of firearms. Back when concealed handgun licenses were first discussed, detractors said that car accidents would turn to shootouts, that there would be blood in the streets. This is not the case. In every case, states which passed these laws saw continued - and in some cases expedited - drops in violent crime. However, in cities such as Washington DC and Chicago, severely restrictive gun laws have not reduced the criminals' capability to cause harm, but have in fact reduced the capability of the citizenry to defend themselves against the onslaught of criminal behavior which the police forces have failed to quell.

Here is a story which shows the true merits of open carry: These citizens unknowingly deterred an armed robbery. Their guns helped prevent violence, not instigate it.

This is where things begin to get ironic. Should open carry pass in Oklahoma, rare will be the day when I openly carry a firearm. No I will still choose to conceal mine, however, as the current laws are written, I have much to worry about if my shirt accidentally rides up, someone notices my firearm and they choose to report it. It's my understanding that I could lose my license for such a violation. Why is it that I should have to worry so much about keeping my firearm absolutely concealed? Many states allow open carry, and in none of those places has it caused widespread fear and panic.

I, among many others I presume, do not wish to openly carry my firearm, but for open carry to be legalized so that I can worry less about concealing mine perfectly. I simply want the ability to carry without fear of legal action should my firearm become visible, it's all about a little extra peace of mind and comfort for me. It can be quite uncomfortable to conceal in certain climates.

There are those among us however that wish to carry openly, and I support that right fully. Obviously it does not cause mass fear and panic, it does not cause violence and it does not cause lawlessness. Many other states have proven that for years.

Representatives, I urge you to reconsider your positions on this issue of great importance should another opportunity to override Governor Henry's veto come up. Your voting citizens know you changed your minds or showed apathy by not voting. They will remember, and I hope YOU remember that those very citizens are the ones who elected you.


Andrew Connel
Former state representative for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus
Concealed handgun license holder
Voting citizen

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