OKLAHOMA CITY -- Firearms bills to allow most Oklahoma adults to openly carry guns without any training or background checks have led to a showdown in Oklahoma between supporters of expanded gun rights and the state's business community, including the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder are among more than two dozen businesses, public universities and law enforcement groups that sent a letter Wednesday to Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman urging him to stop the two bills, one of which passed late Wednesday on a 37-9 vote.
The bill, dubbed a "constitutional-carry" measure, would allow adults over 21 without a felony conviction to openly carry firearms without a license, training or background checks.
Those who wished to carry concealed firearms would still be required to obtain a license. The bill now heads to a conference committee for possible changes before it is considered again in the House and Senate.
The letter expressed concern that the measures could jeopardize existing gun bans by private businesses, at public colleges and universities, and at public events hosted at public parks or fairgrounds.
"Until these issues can be addressed, we ask that these measures not move forward in the Senate," the letter states.
But the Senate author of the bill, Broken Arrow Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, insists that any existing bans on firearms would remain in place.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association is mobilizing its members to support the proposed constitutional amendment, which if approved by the Legislature would be on the November ballot.
The resolution seeks a public vote on whether to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to make it more difficult for the Legislature to regulate firearms and to prohibit laws requiring registration or special taxation of firearms or ammunition.
"This resolution would allow Oklahomans to strengthen the state constitutional protections for gun rights," NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said. "This improved amendment would make it crystal clear that Oklahomans have the right to use a firearm for personal defense, hunting, and recreational shooting."
Mortensen says similar constitutional amendments have been enacted in Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri, but a similar measure brought up in Texas last year was derailed after opposition from the business and law enforcement communities.
Longtime University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator, said an unintended consequence of the resolution could be to overturn existing gun bans at college athletic events or Thunder basketball games.
"It could, for example, possibly cause people from other teams and athletic officials to refuse to come to Oklahoma to participate in athletic contests where fans can bring guns into those contests," Boren said.
Under current Oklahoma law, residents wishing to carry a firearm openly or concealed in public must obtain a gun license that includes a criminal and mental health background check and some firearms training.