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Permitless carry opponents submit signatures

It's unclear if groups opposed to a permitless carry law have collected enough signatures to put a referendum question on the 2020 ballot, but petition backers said they were close to the 60,000 threshold as they submitted petitions to the secretary of state’s office before Thursday's 5 p.m. deadline.

A few hours before the deadline, the group said it had 50,000 signatures and hoped to come close with some last-minute additions.

“To try to do this in two-and-a-half weeks, there were so many naysayers that said, ‘You’re never going to be able to do it,’ and look how close we are,” said Jennifer Birch, a deputy chapter leader of the Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand, one of the organizations collecting signatures.

Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, who spearheaded the effort, said the results showed many Oklahomans were opposed to a new law that would allow most state residents to carry a gun without training or a license.

“The state of Oklahoma has spoken,” he said. “The state of Oklahoma rejects this law. The state of Oklahoma wants this law repealed.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt, whose first law signed as governor was permitless carry, said Oklahomans spoke by electing him and the state Legislature.

“The people spoke, and we signed it into law,” Stitt said last week.

Employees with the secretary of state's office will now count the signatures and determine whether there are enough to put a referendum question on a 2020 ballot, which would also halt the law from going into effect in November.

If they did file enough signatures, the coalition would still face a legal challenge.

The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, 36 Republican legislators and other conservative groups filed a legal challenge to the referendum petition this week alleging the description of the referendum petition "set forth blatantly false, inaccurate, misleading deceitful and inflammatory statements in order to deceive voters into signing."

The legal challenge would effectively become moot if the referendum supporters did not collect enough signatures, Second Amendment Association President Don Spencer said.

“I just don’t understand how these people think,” Spencer said. “Why don’t they start a petition to take away the right to vote? Why don’t they start a petition to take away the right to free speech? Why don’t they start a petition to take away the right of the media to report? All of these are constitutional rights that have to be protected.”

Andrea Stone, Edmond group leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, ran into the secretary of state’s office just before the deadline with a handful of last-minute petitions.

She said she believes the coalition would have had “no problem” getting the required signatures if they’d had more time.

The coalition had roughly two weeks to collect the required signatures. They would have had more time had they started earlier in the summer, but Lowe said he was so affected by the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, that he felt compelled to do something to prevent a mass shooting from occurring in Oklahoma.

It the coalition falls short of the required signatures, Lowe said he would look at all alternative options, including a possible initiative petition.

Lowe could launch an initiative petition to put the question to a statewide vote next year, but the petition, unlike the referendum, would not suspend the permitless carry law from going into effect later this year.

“We believe that we have momentum,” he said. “We believe the people in this state support us and they have shown that.”

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Darla Slipke

Darla Slipke is an enterprise reporter for The Oklahoman. She is a native of Bristol, Conn., and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Slipke worked for newspapers in Kansas, Connecticut, North Carolina and Oklahoma, including a previous... Read more ›

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›