Impact of a change in Oklahoma's handgun laws

Thursday, December 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police officers are outraged over a new Oklahoma law. The law prevents them from arresting people who illegally carry guns in their cars.

As a matter of fact, they can't even write the person a ticket. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains.

Shootings, murders and gang activity got so bad in Tulsa this spring, the police department took its tank out to serve warrants and federal and state agencies held news conferences about all they planned to do to get illegal guns off the streets.

Little did they know that on July 1st, the state would pass a law that seems to work against them. It says officers who pull people over for traffic violations can no longer arrest those who are illegally transporting a firearm in a vehicle; instead, the person is to receive a $70 state ticket.

But here's a problem, no city officer can write a state ticket. Tulsa Police Sgt Wayne Allen: "It hamstrings us because now we'll have to call Tulsa county deputies or OHP to come and write the ticket or a third option is to confiscate the gun and turn it in and fill out paper to get later charges."

State Senator Frank Shurden is one of the bill's sponsors. A woman in his office says the intent of the bill was so law abiding citizens who carry a gun in their car for protection, but don't bother getting a concealed and carry permit, won't be hauled off to jail.

Police don't argue with that, but say it doesn't take into account the not so law-abiding citizens who drive around with guns. "Right now, officers are outraged that they can't use this enforcement tool especially with all the past months we've had of gang violence, this is an important tool we need to have."

Right now in Oklahoma, you can carry a loaded gun in your car if you have a carry and conceal permit. If you don't have a permit, the gun must be unloaded and locked away, in a glove box or trunk, to be legal.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office offered to give the Tulsa Police Department some of its state ticket books so officers could write these tickets. But the Tulsa city attorney says that won't work either because city officers don't have the authority to write state tickets.