OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group of gun rights supporters and survivalists gathered Friday outside the Oklahoma state Capitol to recruit members for a militia and urge the Legislature not to impose any restrictions on gun rights.
About 80 people, several openly carrying firearms, attended the rally sponsored by the Oklahoma Defense Force, a survivalist group that has a militia. Some carried “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and others held signs criticizing President Obama and U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. A young boy carried a sign that read: “I’m Safer Because my Band Mommy Packs Heat.”
Under Oklahoma’s Self-Defense Act, it is legal for an individual with a handgun license to carry a firearm on state property, but not inside a state, county or municipal building. There were no uniformed law enforcement officers at the event, but Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. George Brown said the group applied for a permit last month.
“We were aware of what they were doing,” Brown said. “They came and caused no problems.”
Self-described Oklahoma Defense Force militia commander Ron Cross, who led the rally, said he’s mostly concerned with attempts by the federal government to regulate the possession and ability to carry weapons.
“My Constitution tells me it’s a right and it shall not be infringed,” Cross said. “Let’s organize, folks. We’ve got to stand and we’ve got to stand now.”
Cross said the militia has about 300 members, and encouraged those in attendance who were interested to sign up.
“Oklahoma has one of the most organized militias nationwide,” he said. “I’m not only helping Oklahoma. I’m working with other states to get their militias up and running.”
Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature has pushed to expand gun rights in recent years. Last year, they approved a so-called “open carry” law that allows individuals with a handgun license to openly display their weapon in a holster. That law took effect in November.
Legislators this session will be considering measures to expand where an individual is allowed to carry their weapon to include public meetings, parks and recreational areas.
Among those in the crowd was former Republican state Rep. Charles Key, who said in 2010 that he supported the creation of a state militia as a way to push back against an overreaching federal government.
Sean Henson, an ex-Marine from Broken Arrow, carried a holstered .40-caliber handgun on his hip. He said he was interested in the militia, saying it’s a good way for a group of like-minded people to ensure government authorities won’t confiscate their firearms.
“If the government decides to come and take ‘em, they’re going to send 30 men to take all your guns. If you’re just one guy, they’ll definitely put you in your grave,” Henson said. “United we stand, divided we fall.”