On January 21, 2015, House Joint Resolution 1009 was introduced in the Oklahoma legislature to allow Oklahomans to vote to amend Section 26 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution, clarifying the manner in which citizens may keep and bear arms.
The proposed amendment would read:
Section 26. A. The fundamental right of each individual citizen to keep and to bear arms, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, knives, nonlethal defensive weapons and other arms in common use, as well as ammunition and the components of arms and ammunition, for security, self-defense, lawful hunting and recreation, in aid of the civil power, when thereunto lawfully summoned, or for any other legitimate purpose shall not be infringed. Any regulation of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.
According to U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles, “The current Oklahoma Constitution gives virtually no protection to the right to keep and bear arms. Over the past 109 years since the constitution was adopted in 1907, the courts have continued to chip away at our gun rights.”
“The courts have ruled,” Robles stated, “that our right to bear arms is not about personal defense; the constitution does not protect the keeping and bearing of common self-defense weapons, such as knives, clubs, bows and arrows. Furthermore,” he added, “the state, in the past, made it illegal to carry a handgun in your own backyard, and today controls the carrying of knives, guns, bows and arrows.”
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Robles went on to say, “the 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Second Amendment that offers some protection to our rights may be in jeopardy, depending on the justice chosen to replace Scalia.”
“Fortunately, Oklahoma has not succumbed to the efforts of the gun control advocates successfully targeting other states,” he says.
To avoid potential future problems, the Oklahoma legislature is seeking to allow voters to amend the state’s constitution to protect arms for self-defense, and to require state and municipal gun restrictions to satisfy “judicial strict scrutiny.”
Robles explains “strict scrutiny is the level of review that the courts apply to any laws or proposed laws that have the effect of restricting a fundamental right. It does not, however, mean an end to gun regulation.”
“What it means, is that the courts must carefully consider whether any such regulation or law is narrowly tailored to protect public safety without having a broader effect on a fundamental right,” he added. “Laws regulating access to guns by minors, or banning their possession by felons have all been upheld as valid under the strict scrutiny test.”
Over the past seventeen months since its introduction, the joint resolution has undergone some amendments, including preventing the state from imposing registration or special taxes on the ownership of arms and ammunition.
The House version passed on April 21, 2016 and was sent on to the Senate for consideration of the amended version. On April 25, 2016, the Senate rejected the House version and requested a conference committee be convened to hammer out an agreed version, and on May 2nd, the conference was granted and the measure referred to the Conference Committee on Rules.
On May 3rd, the Committee (select Conference Committee on Rules) issued its report, recommending:
1. That the Senate recede from its amendment; and
2. That the Conference Committee Substitute be adopted.
As of May 16, 2016, however, only one of the ten committee members had signed off on the report.
Other states, like Louisiana, Missouri and Alabama, have already adopted constitutional amendments similar to HJR 1009.
Will Oklahoma join the ranks of states offering this constitutional protection to our fundamental right to keep and bear arms?