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OK Governor Fallin vetoes bill because gun rights are 'minor issue'

I don't have time for your Constitutional rights!
I don't have time for your Constitutional rights!
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Tuesday, April 29, ostensibly "pro-gun" Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) surprised and disappointed gun rights advocates when she vetoed Oklahoma House Bill 2461. HB 2461 is an important gun rights bill that would basically make Oklahoma a "shall issue" state with regard to National Firearm Act (NFA) items like fully-automatic firearms, suppressors ("silencers" in popular, but inaccurate, parlance), short-barreled rifles and shotguns, large bore destructive devices, etc. One of the many federal hoops prospective owners of such items must jump through is a requirement to obtain the signature of a local chief law enforcement officer ("CLEO"--sheriff, chief of police, etc.) indicating the CLEO's "permission" to own such an item.

Some CLEOs, in furtherance of whatever agenda motivates them, refuse to sign this form, despite the very lengthy and invasive background check performed by the federal government. In other words, this requirement opens up a prospective short-barreled shotgun owner (for example) to the same kinds of abuses we have seen in jurisdictions with "may issue" concealed carry permitting systems. The CLEO can refuse outright to give that permission, or even use that power to extort "favors" from the would-be buyer.

HB 2461 solves that problem by requiring the CLEO to sign the form within 15 days, unless the applicant is a "prohibited person" with regard to firearm ownership. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature: 86 to 3 in the House, and 46 to 2 in the Senate (not counting excused absences in the House vote). Oklahoma is evidently not the only state where this kind of measure is not considered controversial--legislation similar to HB 2461 has been signed into law just this spring by the governors of Utah, Kentucky, Kansas and Arizona.

If Fallin's veto was surprising, her stated reason for issuing it is utterly astounding. From the American Suppressor Association:

During a press conference, Fallin explained her decision by stating, “I’ve used my executive power, my executive authority to set aside ‘minor issues’ so that we can have more time to deal with major issues here at the Capitol and hopefully get the attention to get those things done.”

So first note that she has decided that advancing Oklahomans' right to keep and bear arms is a "minor issue." The people's Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms is . . . no big deal, evidently. Any other portions of the Bill of Rights similarly "minor," Governor, or is it just that one?

The dumber-than-a-bag-of-anvils part, though, is of course her apparent belief that vetoing the bill saves time that could be more productively spent on whatever she deems to be "major issues." The legislature had, after all, already spent as much time on the bill as would have been necessary had she not vetoed it. Presumably, signing the bill into law would not take any more time than vetoing it, so she clearly didn't save any of her own time (besides, she could have done nothing, and the bill would have become law at the end of April without the need for her to spend any time on it).

Instead, the legislature is now taking the time to override her veto of legislation so uncontroversial as to have received votes from over 85% of the House, and almost 96% of the Senate. And indeed, the veto override process is well underway, with the House voting 86-3 on Wednesday in favor of the override. The bill now goes to the Senate, which originally passed it by an even more overwhelming margin.

Fallin can take comfort in the fact that the presumably easy override vote there should at least not take much time, but hopefully she has learned that vetoing the people's fundamental human rights--however "minor" she deems that issue to be--is not a good way to save time.

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