open carry

Open Carry a fact for Oklahoma, but not Indian Country

by S.E. RUCKMAN, Native American Times  |  published on November 24, 2012


At midnight of the first day of the eleventh month, a different day dawned in Oklahoma. A new law went into effect that will undoubtedly change a few things around here. The “Open Carry” statute allows gun holders (who are trained and licensed) to publicly carry their guns. Make no mistake it signals a return to a time when this kind of gun-toting dress was de rigueur.

Advocates of this law cite that openly carrying (and swaggering) with the weight of one’s gun is the hip and trendy thing to do among states. One news source cites that 14 other states have similar laws (all located in the west and even Connecticut). At the same time, Oklahoma’s gubernatorial office puts it at 22 states with like statutes. This must be a reminder that if all of our friends are willing to jump off a cliff, we here in Oklahoma will start looking for a suitable launching point.

The law brings me no comfort. I have traveled to some of the states where similar Open Carry season exists and I don’t recall seeing a firearm brandished yet. As the brainchild of Oklahoma state senator Anthony Sykes (a Republican attorney from Newcastle), the successful Senate Bill 1733 prevailed with the assertion that responsible gun-owning behavior in Oklahoma thrives. Incredibly, the sight of a gun brandished by qualified gun toters may even be a deterrent to the irresponsible ones.

Somewhere in all this is bound to be room for contradiction. Let’s talk tribal here. Like a tree falling in the forest, does it makes a sound if no one is there to hear it? Likewise, does a state law have substance in Indian Country where it has no legal heft? The answer here is even murkier when it is a non-Indian on federally sanctioned tribal lands carrying said firearms that he might use against an Indian.

One tribal law enforcement officer said that they have been told that the new law cannot apply blindly in Oklahoma mainly due to jurisdictional complications. Despite a long ago era where our warriors were elegant Open Carriers, the issues at stake here move us past ordering a cool gun holster so we can imitate our forefathers.

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