OKLAHOMA CITY – Thousands of signatures for a petition to stop a law that would let most Oklahomans over the age of 21 get a gun without a permit or training requirements were submitted to the secretary of state's office on Thursday. But it remains unclear if supporters gathered enough signatures to force a new vote on the law.
Gun-rights advocates are panning the effort as not a grassroots one, but an outside-interest "astroturf" push.
But Democratic leaders said the petition drive speaks to the appetite in the state for gun reform.
Democratic state Rep. Jason Lowe introduced the referendum petition two weeks ago after 31 people died in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The petition, if successful, will stop the law from taking effect Nov. 1, putting the measure on the 2020 ballot instead.
“There’s a lot of people that I know that should not be handling firearms. And I totally believe this is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue or even an independent issue. I think it's more of a people issue and also a safety issue,” said Lowe.
Democratic state Rep. Jason Lowe of Oklahoma introduced a petition to stop permitless carry in the state. He and his supporters collected more than 50,000 signatures in two weeks. (Fox News)
Lowe said they had to collect nearly 60,000 signatures, 5 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election, by Aug. 29. It spurred statewide action, with Moms Demand Action taking a prominent role, deploying volunteers to collect signatures.
They were about 9,000 signatures short hours before the 5 p.m. sumission cutoff, but petitions continued to pour in minutes before the deadline. The secretary of state's office now has to count and validate the signatures, but told local media it won't begin the process until the state's Supreme Court weighs in.
That's because the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association filed a protest against the petition, saying it mischaracterized the law, thus rendering the signatures invalid.
"What we want to clarify in their gist is, they make a statement that a person would be able to carry a firearm on campus or college university, which is grotesquely inaccurate," said Don Spencer, president of the association.
Lowe boasted that they collected 25,000 signatures each week since launching the petition.
“I knew there was a segment of the population that was against this, but I did not know that there was a lot of Republicans that are against this as well,” he said.
Spencer said several other states have "constitutional carry" laws — and complained that only Oklahoma was the target of a repeal effort.
"It’s out-of-state money. … They hired a lobbyist to work against constitutional carry from in the state,” said Spencer.
Moms Demand Action deployed several volunteers to collect signatures. Some Republicans have accused Democrats of using outside help to pass the referendum petition. (Fox News)
Some gun-rights advocates think the 2020 presidential race played a part.
“I think it's for political expediency on behalf of some political parties members who feel that they can generate interests leading into either the 2020 voting season,” said Robert Robles, attorney for the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.
Democratic candidates Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker have swung by the state in recent weeks pushing gun reform.
“We’re going to end the sales of weapons of war into our community,” O’Rourke told several University of Oklahoma students on one of his first campaign stops after the El Paso shooting.
Lowe and his supporters say they plan on pushing legislation next year to repeal the permitless carry bill. (Fox News)
Lowe argued that the support they generated still speaks to a broader shift.
“You would not think this was happening in the reddest states in America but it's happening here. People want change. People want gun reform,” said Lowe.
If the petition falls short, Lowe said they’ll push an effort next year to repeal the bill with state lawmakers. They’re looking into potentially filing a lawsuit as well.