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permitless carry referendum
(Morguefile.com)

(Correction: This story has been updated to note corrections of incorrect information provided to media by proponents of the referendum effort. Signature submissions are due by Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.)

In a Monday morning press advisory, Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) announced that he has filed a referendum petition in an attempt to recall HB 2597, which will allow for the permitless carry of firearms in Oklahoma. The bill, passed this year overwhelmingly by the Oklahoma Legislature, is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1.

Working with the anti-gun-violence group Moms Demand Action, Lowe and other supporters have a narrow window of opportunity to collect the 59,320 signatures necessary to qualify a recall of HB 2597 on a 2020 ballot. Those signatures of registered voters would need to be collected and submitted to the Oklahoma Secretary of State by Thursday, Aug. 29. Lowe originally told media the submission deadline was Aug. 21.

Lowe held an Oklahoma State Capitol press conference Monday afternoon to rally support for the referendum effort, but he was unavailable for comment at the time this story originally published. Lowe was joined by Joshua Harris-Till, national president of the Young Democrats of America, who spoke to NonDoc prior to the press conference.

“When we talk about gun violence, African Americans are the most likely people to be killed by guns. We are 10 times more likely than any other demographic,” Harris-Till said Monday. “So having permitless carry means more people with less training, no accountability and more fear among society that somebody is going to shoot them.”

Harris-Till emphasized that if the signature threshold is met and voters ultimately disapprove of HB 2597 no Oklahomans would lose their firearms. In fact, he said, the effort would not add any harsher gun laws at all.

“It would just retain the standard we have now for training and permits,” Harris-Till said.

Lori Walke, a minister and OKC leader of Moms Demand Action, is also expected to speak at the press conference. She told NonDoc that HB 2597 “rejects common sense and makes our communities less safe.”

“Our position is rooted in Proverbs 4:6, which urges us: ‘Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you,'” Walke said. “In the case of firearms, the stakes are incredibly high — literally a matter of life and death — so the wisdom of permitting requirements should be obvious.”

HB 2597 passed the Oklahoma House by a 70-30 vote and the Oklahoma Senate by a 40-6 vote. Lowe voted against the measure, as did Walke’s husband, Rep. Collin Walke (D-OKC).

“We will not give up, for our children are counting on us,” Lori Walke said. “We urge common-sense Oklahomans to sign the referendum petition and then repeal permitless carry at the ballot box.”

OK2A president: Referendum ‘a political stunt’

The referendum initiative would appear to face an uphill climb in Oklahoma. Beyond needing to average more than 3,400 signatures per day through Aug. 29, supporters are seeking signatures in a largely pro-gun state.

Don Spencer, president of Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, said he believes Lowe’s referendum would have no chance of passing even if it makes a ballot.

“Citizens of the state of Oklahoma who have waited for over 112 years to be able to exercise their Second Amendment right will not go to the polls to vote that very right away,” Spencer said. “This is nothing more than a political stunt and will get no traction.”

Spencer has advocated in favor of the permitless carry law — politically referred to as “Constitutional Carry” — for years. The measure was ultimately the first bill by signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt this year.

Spencer rejected the notion that mass shootings across America signal a need for gun-law reform.

“These shootings have absolutely nothing to do with constitutional carry,” Spencer said. “It is against the law today or tomorrow to go into any business anywhere to start shooting and massacring people. We want law-abiding citizens to have a reasonable chance (during a shooting). They do not need government permission to defend themselves in these horrific situations.”

Harris-Till said anyone seeking to help with the referendum signature-gathering process can start by visiting Lowe’s Facebook page or the Oklahoma Moms Demand Action page.

Lowe said those wishing to sign the petition can find it at either of his law office locations: 228 Robert S. Kerr Ave., Suite 630 in Oklahoma City or 525 S. Main St. in Tulsa. His office phone number is (405) 232-8500.

Proposed SQ 803 referendum language