SPD captain says new permitless carry law is a 'step backward'

Stillwater Police Department Capt. Kyle Gibbs said the permitless carry bill Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law Wednesday is a step backward, but it won’t affect the way the police do their job.

The bill that Stitt signed Wednesday afternoon allows anyone over the age of 21, who does not fall under a list of specific exceptions, to carry a weapon, concealed or unconcealed, without a permit. The list of exceptions includes a felony conviction, or a domestic violence or stalking conviction.

The law overturns a previous requirement that anyone who wanted to carry a gun had to go through basic firearms training and apply for a license through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The application included a $25 fee paid to the sheriff’s office for fingerprinting, and a $100 fee paid to the OSBI for a five-year license.

The law still requires a background check to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer, but it’s not required to receive a gun as a gift or to buy from a private seller.

Gibbs said while he wouldn’t have chosen the law change, it won’t change the police department’s procedures.

“If the law’s changed, we just accept it and go on,” Gibbs said. “We wouldn’t have advocated for that position, the carry with no background check, but it is what it is, so we will take that in stride and continue doing what we’re doing.”

Police policy when approaching someone who is carrying a gun will not change now that there is no license. Under the previous law, police could only initiate contact with a person carrying a gun if they had a specific reason to believe that person was breaking the law, such as if the person carrying a gun is a known felon, or if they are in the middle of an illegal act. Gibbs said that doesn’t change.

“Those items remain exactly the same,” Gibbs said. “Now people can legally carry a gun without a permit, but to go and investigate why they’re carrying the gun, we still have to have some other behavior that would necessitate the contact. If I just see ‘em walking down the street, that doesn’t give me the authority to go and contact them and find out if they’re legally able to carry the gun or not.”

Overall, Gibbs said the law doesn’t really make the public any less safe because the people who planned to break the law – such as convicted felons – were already carrying guns.

“Where we as law enforcement encounter problems with people with guns, it’s not the people who have permits who we have any issue with,” Gibbs said. “The people who are carrying guns illegally and that would do us harm or do someone else harm, they are carrying those guns illegally, or have those guns illegally. That will always continue to be the case.”

Where Gibbs said he does have a problem with the law is the lack of training required to carry a gun. He recommends that everyone who carries a gun get some kind of training, even though it is no longer a requirement.

“If you’re going to carry a gun, you need to be confident and comfortable and understand how to use the gun,” Gibbs said. “And they are still responsible, just like the police are. For every shot we fire we are responsible for that bullet.”

Daysha Lewis, an Oklahoma State University freshman, doesn’t know how she feels about the new law, and it’s for the same reason Gibbs is concerned.

“I still think you should have good training because a lot of people don’t know what they’re doing with them,” Lewis said. “They’re very dangerous.”

Lewis said she is unlikely to get a gun in the future, and she feels like there has to be another way to defend oneself. Still, she said she’s pretty sure people are already carrying guns, and the law may make people feel safer.

“It may be safer, I guess,” Lewis said.

Kaelon Love, a sports management junior who spent some time in the army, dislikes the law.

“I think it could be a little dangerous, a little bit,” Love said. “… I understand why people want them, but at the same time, I don’t feel like we need them.”

But Love said he’s not entirely against guns.

“I think if you go through training and stuff like that, if you know how to use it and you know when to use it, then it’s okay,” Love said.

The law does not affect the issue of carrying guns on college campuses.

The new law goes into effect Nov. 1.