Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has issued an opinion that leaves untouched a loophole in the State’s handgun licensing law that allows Oklahoma residents to bypass the State’s more rigorous training and handgun proficiency test required to obtain an Oklahoma-issued handgun license.
Oklahoma residents have found that they can obtain out-of-state handgun licenses online issued by other states, even if the other state has more lenient requirements. The opinion from Pruitt puts to rest any question as to the validity of these out-of-state issued permits— they are as valid as licenses issued by Oklahoma.
The opinion, released May 18, 2016, states that Oklahoma residents with a “non-resident” handgun license from another state, such as Virginia, and Utah, are as valid as Oklahoma’s concealed handgun license.
The issue came to light when it was found that a loophole in Oklahoma law allows individuals to obtain a valid handgun license without ever firing a practice shot or picking up a gun.
Oklahoma’s Self-Defense Act recognizes handgun licenses from all other states and allows individuals to openly carry handguns as long as the person has a valid handgun license.
There are any number of online courses available that allow people who live in other states to obtain a nonresident handgun license by taking a short online course and passing a background check by authorities their home state. Typically, these courses require applicants to pass a multiple-choice quiz, but do not require the applicant to actually fire their gun to demonstrate proficiency, nor do courses cover the non-resident’s home state concealed carry laws.
Oklahoma’s Self-Defense Act requires the applicant to undergo about eight hours of instruction, including the state’s concealed carry laws, and demonstrate proficiency with their weapon. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation issues the licenses.
By comparison, the applicant for a license issued by Virginia watches a short video, takes a 20-question, true-false and multiple choice quiz, and turns in background check information. Virginia officials say more than 150 Oklahomans have obtained a nonresident license from the state.
This raised concern among law enforcement officials, firearms instructors and legislators about Oklahomans obtaining non-resident handgun licenses issued by other states rather than state licenses because of a lack of understanding about the state’s handgun laws and a lack of experience firing the gun.
To address this concern, Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, introduced House Bill 1391 in January 2015, that strengthened the training and proficiency requirements for Oklahoma handgun permits and allowed for some courses to be taken online. In addition, the bill included language requiring Oklahoma residents to have an Oklahoma-issued license, and not one issued by another state.
Supporters of this provision argued the law requiring that a license applicant be proficient was important because certain other states’ licensing requirements were more lax and that could potentially put Oklahomans at greater risk from being shot by an untrained person not being able to hit their intended target.
However, the “Oklahoma only” licensing requirement was later stricken from the bill in committee, though the online course section was passed and signed into law by the governor on May 1, 2015.
This year, Attorney General Pruitt was asked to issue an official opinion on the matter. Pruitt’s opinion states that under the Self-Defense Act, an Oklahoma resident could indeed have a valid out-of-state handgun license to carry a handgun concealed or openly.
The opinion reads in part:
With respect to licenses issued by other states, the Act recognizes any valid concealed or unconcealed carry weapons permit or license issued by another state.
This reflects a permissive approach to recognition of licenses from other states, whereby Oklahoma does not look behind the license to determine whether the licensing requirements were commensurate with the Act’s requirements for issuance through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
To decide otherwise would treat Oklahoma residents differently than those individuals traveling through the State with licenses issued by their state and recognized as valid in Oklahoma through reciprocity agreements.
What are your thoughts?