Members of a state House committee have voted to increase the legal protection of citizens’ constitutional rights.
Senate Bill 1760, by state Sen. Anthony Sykes and state Rep. T.W. Shannon, would specify that Oklahomans’ Second Amendment rights cannot be taken away during a declared state of emergency.
“While government may assume greater police powers to preserve public safety during times of emergency, the government should never be allowed to strip citizens of their most basic constitutional rights,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “This legislation simply makes clear that Oklahomans will continue to have the right to self-defense during emergency situations.”
Shannon noted that law enforcement officials reportedly seized guns from citizens who were not engaged in acts of lawlessness after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, which led many states to reconsider laws dealing with an official state of emergency.
Senate Bill 1760 amends the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act to state that “neither the governor nor any official of a municipal or state entity shall prohibit or suspend the sale, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, transfer and storage of firearms, ammunition and ammunition accessories during a declared state of emergency that are otherwise legal under state law.” The bill would apply to situations where a state of emergency has been declared to deal with a public disorder, disaster, or riot.
Under the bill, the Oklahoma Riot Control and Prevention Act would continue to allow the governor to issue proclamations imposing a curfew, banning the sale of alcohol, targeting individuals using explosive devices, and other activities the governor “reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace” during a disaster or riot.
“In a situation where a riot is severe enough that the governor declares a state of emergency, citizens in the affected area will likely have much greater need for self-defense than at any other time,” Shannon said. “It makes no sense to force those law-abiding citizens caught in a bad situation to disarm when they may be threatened with violence by lawless individuals.”
Senate Bill 1760 passed the House Public Safety Committee on a bipartisan 12-0 vote. It now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.