Oklahoma judge rejects challenge to 'permitless carry' law

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by a Democratic state lawmaker and gun safety advocates to block a new law that will allow most people in the state to carry a firearm in public without a background check or training.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews rejected a request by Oklahoma City Democratic Rep. Jason Lowe for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the "permitless carry" law from taking effect on Friday.

Lowe's attorney, Melanie Rughani, argued that the bill violated the state's constitutional single-subject rule that requires bills to deal with only one topic. But the judge said Rughani failed to prove that the law taking effect would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.

Lowe promised to appeal the judge's ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

"We're going to fight hard to keep this dangerous law from taking effect," Lowe said after the hearing.

Dubbed "constitutional carry" by its supporters, the bill approved overwhelmingly by the GOP-led Legislature was the first signed into law by new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. It would allow most adults 21 and older to carry firearms, concealed or openly, without a license that currently requires a background check and training. Exceptions would include anyone in the country illegally or those convicted of certain crimes. Firearms would still be prohibited in certain locations, including public buildings, schools, professional sporting events, casinos and bars.

According to the National Rifle Association, at least 14 states have approved some version of permitless carry.

Stitt, who was named as a defendant in the case, was represented by Attorney General Mike Hunter's office.

Hunter said in a statement that he was pleased with the ruling, which will allow the law to go into effect on Friday.

"My office is proud to defend the constitutional carry law against a political attack by plaintiffs who were unable to succeed at the Legislature, unable to persuade voters in the referendum process and now seeking to overturn a duly enacted law with meritless claims and scare tactics."

Lowe and the gun safety group Moms Demand Action had sought a state question to ask voters to overturn the new law but fell short of gathering the required number of signatures.

Don Spencer, a citizen activist who has pushed for looser gun laws at the Capitol for nearly a decade, said he was "thrilled" with the judge's ruling.

"This was just another Hail Mary legal attempt," Spencer said of Lowe's effort.

Spencer and other gun rights advocates plan to hold a rally at the state Capitol on Friday to celebrate the new law taking effect.

A similar bill was vetoed last year by then-Gov. Mary Fallin, who cited opposition from the business community and law enforcement.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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