- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma legislator says anyone with a license to carry a handgun should be allowed to take the weapon into “the people’s Capitol.”

“It’s our God-given right and our constitutional right,” said Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, who has filed legislation to allow weapons to be brought into the Capitol building.

Bennett’s bill has been assigned to the House Public Safety Committee but has not been set for a hearing.

A similar bill was approved in the House Judiciary Committee last year, but the proposal did not reach the full House.

Security is tight at the Capitol, with visitors having to go through metal detectors and send bags, cellphones and, at times, even pocket change through an x-ray machine.

“I’m a believer in the Second Amendment, but there are several people that have reservations about it,” including the sergeants at arms who guard the House and Senate chambers, said Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, chairman of the public safety panel.

Christian said he wants to hear from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which provides security for both the Capitol and the governor.

Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Paul Timmons declined comment and Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said the office hadn’t reviewed the proposal.

Those who are armed would be allowed through security checkpoints after presenting a valid handgun license. Capitol guards would not be allowed “to remove or inspect any weapon or restrain any person carrying a properly concealed loaded or unloaded handgun without probable cause that a crime has been committed,” according to the measure.

Bennett said he is not worried that safety inside the Capitol would be compromised.

“There’s always a level of ‘what if’ out there. But until they do … something illegal that would take away the right to be licensed, they should be able to carry,” Bennett said. “The right to defend ourselves doesn’t stop at the Capitol doors and the right to carry doesn’t stop at the Capitol doors.”

Rep. Richard Morsette, D-Oklahoma City, opposed last year’s bill, asking “Why are we doing this? Are you serious?”

He said he hadn’t seen this year’s version.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, voted against the bill that passed out of the Judiciary Committee in 2014 and said she will oppose any bill allowing guns inside the building, saying some legislation can incite high emotions and passions.

“It’s just not a good place for people to be carrying firearms,” Virgin said.

“We have security at the Capitol at all times, we have the highway patrol there who always carry firearms,” Virgin said. “I would prefer firearms to be in the hands of professionals, trained law enforcement.”

It wasn’t clear why the current bill was assigned to the Public Safety Committee, rather than the Judiciary Committee, but Virgin said the move seems appropriate.

“It probably feels more like a natural fit in public safety, I’m not sure why it was in judiciary last year.”

Christian said he planned to discuss the bill with Bennett.

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