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Clergy group denounces 'constitutional carry' bill in Oklahoma Legislature

A woman aims at a target at an Oklahoma City firing range Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
A woman aims at a target at an Oklahoma City firing range Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

A group of pastors from across the state denounced a bill on Thursday that would allow Oklahoma residents to carry a gun without a license or training.

The so-called Constitutional Carry bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday by an 18-4 vote after sailing through the House. House Bill 2597 is expected to be heard on the Senate floor next week.

"This bill ... is a bill that will advance a violent culture that is obsessed with guns," said the Rev. Mitch Randall, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol.

Randall, the former pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, said he's concerned the bill would lead to an uptick in gun assaults across the state. He called on Oklahomans to urge their state senators to vote against the bill.

Randall said the bill would not be the "way of peace" in Oklahoma. He cited a passage in the Gospels in which Jesus rebukes the disciple Peter for drawing a sword against a group of soldiers and Jewish officials who had come to arrest Jesus, cutting off the ear of the servant of a high priest.

"Jesus knew that violence would beget violence," Randall said. "Make no mistake, this bill will beget violence."

The bill would allow most people 21 or older, and military service members and veterans age 18 or older, to carry firearms either concealed or unconcealed without any permit or training. Felons and people adjudicated to be mentally ill would be prohibited.

As under current law, guns would not be allowed in certain areas like schools, courthouses or college and university campuses. The bill would also preserve an existing provision that allows private property owners, tenants, businesses and places of worship to prohibit firearms.

About two dozen pastors and members of the Oklahoma chapter of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action met with lawmakers Thursday and delivered petitions asking lawmakers to reject the bill.

The Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said she worried the bill would put young children at greater risk of accidental death and give domestic abusers greater access to deadly weapons.

The Rev. Lori Walke, pastor of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, said she hoped Gov. Kevin Stitt would listen to the group's concerns. A member of Woodlake Church in Tulsa, Stitt has expressed a strong commitment to his faith, Walke said. She hoped a united message from a diverse group of clergy would resonate with the governor.

Stitt has indicated he plans to sign the bill if it passes the full Senate. If the law is enacted, Randall said lawmakers would be responsible for its impact.

"If this happens, our state Legislature, our elected officials, will have blood on their hands," Randall said. "But I guess at the end of the day, they can do as Pilate did, and wash their hands of this violence and blood."

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›