A few weeks ago, after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I announced that I am convening an interim legislative study this November on Oklahoma’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” and open-carry laws. As the representative for Oklahoma House District 97 in eastern Oklahoma County, these laws are, indeed, an issue that has weighed heavy on my heart for some time.
My positions on gun laws are well-known. I have received a failing grade from the National Rifle Association. I have debated passionately on the House floor against loosening gun laws.
However, people assume because I am conducting this study on Stand Your Ground and open-carry, I am somehow against guns.
Let me be clear: Just like my family sits down to hash out an issue, I want to bring the people of Oklahoma together to talk about these laws.
That’s it. We’re just going to talk about it. All sides will be included.
I’m not going into this study with any foregone conclusions. As a gun owner myself, I’m not going in with any fixed ideas. I’m not forming this study assuming I have all the answers.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to talk about. If the Zimmerman verdict taught us anything about Stand Your Ground statutes, it’s that they are not perfect. These laws are a bit murky as to what constitutes “self-defense” and straight-out murder. That should make all Oklahomans uneasy.
Remember, the Stand Your Ground law is a stock law implemented with little variation in states around the country. Oklahoma’s laws should meet Oklahoma’s needs and protect Oklahoma’s citizens. Our laws should serve as guidelines for our legal system, protecting all Oklahomans, regardless of zip code.
Although Stand Your Ground laws are fairly consistent between the states that have them, we know Oklahomans’ views on guns vary. They mean some thing entirely different between rural and urban areas.
But as Mother Teresa said, “The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small.”
I think the conversation about guns — or the lack thereof — is the perfect example of Oklahomans drawing their circle of family too small. There are differences between us, but this interim study will help close that gap and broaden our circle of family and our understanding of one another.
Also, what comes out of this study will teach us exactly how to go forward with these laws.
But first, we need to talk about this issue because tough conversations about the family are what families do.
Shelton, a Democrat from Oklahoma City, represents District 97 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.