Oklahoma’s new ‘anti-red flag’ law may be first in nation

Carmen Forman The Oklahoman
A customer takes a closer look at a handgun at H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City in March. Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt over the weekend signed legislation to preempt Oklahoma localities from implementing so-called “red flag” policies.

The bill from Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, was one of the last measures Oklahoma’s Legislature advanced Friday before adjourning.

Senate Bill 1081 prevents Oklahoma cities and towns from enacting policies that would allow a court or other entity to restrict gun access to people deemed to be an imminent danger.

Steagall said this is the nation’s first “anti-red flag” law.

More than a dozen states have enacted “red flag” laws. Oklahoma is not one of them. The U.S. Constitution prevents states from nullifying federal laws.

But both Dahm and Steagall said they were concerned about the possibility of the federal government enacting such a law or offering grants to states or localities to implement “red flag” policies.

After back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last year, some congressional Republicans proposed legislation to entice states to enact “red flag” laws.

“Red flag” laws violate the Second Amendment and the right to due process, Steagall said Friday.

“I find it impossible for any red-flag law to respect due process or the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” he said. “I have taken the oath to protect our Constitution seven times throughout my 22 years of service and nine deployments in the military, an oath that I take very seriously. I will not stand idly by and let this freedom be stripped from us.”

Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, disagreed, saying a judge has to assess the situation, determine if a person appears to be a threat and must grant an order before a person’s guns can be taken.

“It’s right in the name — Extreme Risk Protective Order,” she said. “You’ve got to get the order before you can get the gun from the individual. I don’t think we should just show up and take peoples’ guns either. There’s a process here.”

Those who support “red flag” laws say they reduce gun violence and suicides and can lessen the chances of mass shootings. Many of the states that have adopted “red flag” laws have done so in the wake of mass shootings.

Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, previously said the bill is redundant because the state already preempts local governments from regulating firearms.

“This is an unnecessary and unconstitutional measure,” she said.

She said current state laws deal with firearms regulation, while “red flag” laws deal with the confiscation of firearms.

The law took effect immediately.