CHICAGO: Residents in Oklahoma will be allowed to openly carry firearms without a permit or training, thanks to a new law signed by the US state's governor.
Supporters of the law, which takes effect in November, say it upholds the constitutional right to bear arms and is similar to laws in 15 other states.
The measure sailed through the state's Republican-controlled legislature this week and was the first bill signed by the newly-elected Republican Governor Kevin Stitt. "As I travelled all over the state, all 77 counties, I heard from Oklahomans all over that they wanted us to protect their right to bear arms," Stitt said during the signing ceremony Wednesday.
The law says that anyone 21 or older -- or 18 if a current or former member of the military -- who are legally allowed to purchase a shotgun, rifle or pistol can carry it openly in public without a valid handgun license.
Convicted felons, undocumented immigrants and minors will remain prohibited. The law included protections for private property owners to ban firearms, as well as colleges, schools and public areas such as zoos and sports arenas.
Weapons also would remain banned from government buildings. The gun safety group Moms Demand Action condemned the new law, saying states with similar laws have seen "a substantial increase in firearm violence."
"I'm embarrassed for our state. I'm embarrassed that our elected leaders put politics before the safety of our families by passing permitless carry," the group's Oklahoma leader Christine Jackson said in a statement.
The Oklahoma law was passed on the same day lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives passed the first major national gun safety measure in a quarter century, which would expand background checks to virtually all firearms sales.
Earlier this month, Americans marked the one-year anniversary of Valentine's Day shooting at a Florida high school where 14 students and three staff were killed.
The mass shooting galvanized gun control proponents. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, legislators in 26 states and the nation's capital Washington passed 67 new gun safety laws in 2018.
In seven states, background checks for gun buyers were added or existing laws strengthened. Four states raised the minimum age to purchase firearms.