On Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a popular bill that would have restricted private businesses from banning guns at public lands like parks, recreational areas, and fairgrounds. The bill, SB 41, passed the state House with widespread support in a 88-4 vote in April, and sailed through the Senate with a 39-7 vote earlier in May. Legislators say they are considering reworking the bill to gain Governor Fallin’s approval, but if no compromise can be reached, they will push for an override of the veto.
The bill was popular among pro-gun advocates since it required public spaces to remain open to gun owners with a carry permit, even if they were being used by a private business. According to supporters like the NRA, the bill would close a loophole that some municipalities have exploited to create “gun-free” zones.
“This legislation focused on reaffirming the right of a peaceful law-abiding Oklahoman to exercise his or her basic right of self-defense where they are already legally allowed to be, no matter which private entity is leasing public land at the moment,” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a press release. “It did not seek to expand carry into public buildings or structures.”
The business community received the bill much less warmly. According to The Oklahoman, there were concerns that the bill could jeopardize events such as the NCAA basketball tournament or the Women’s College World Series softball championship, which contractually require guns to be prohibited. Fallin cited both business concerns and the fact that the bill is tied to pending litigation as reasons for her veto.
“I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment,” Fallin said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “I’m a gun owner myself. I have my open carry license and I have signed legislation for open carry and many other gun bills since I’ve been in office as governor, so there’s no doubt where I stand on our Second Amendment rights and gun ownership in Oklahoma.”
Pro-gun advocates also pointed to Fallin’s previous record, though in a less positive light.
“When the Governor vetoed three 2nd Amendment bills last year, she said it was to send a message to the Legislature. But when you veto 2nd Amendment bills two years in a row (she vetoed SB41 today), that’s a pattern,” the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association said in a statement. “Governor Fallin can use legal double-speak all she wants to explain away her anti-gun pattern, but the simple truth is she has vetoed more gun bills than Brad Henry. She has chosen, again, to side with the gun-grabbers.”
One of the pro-gun bills Fallin vetoed in 2014 was eventually overridden by state legislators. Lawmakers are hoping that the same could happen with SB 41 if no middle ground can be reached.