Gun violence is a hot-button issue that has permeated the media in recent years. The unfortunate reality is that in Oklahoma, many licensed firearms are used for destructive purposes. According to the CDC, Oklahoma’s firearm mortality rate is nearly twice that of the rest of the United States.
Although nearly two-thirds of all of Oklahoma’s gun-related deaths are suicides, the number of annual gun homicides has risen both locally and nationally in recent years as well. Oklahoma has consistently ranked as a state with some of the highest rates of gun death in the country, highlighting a necessity for more control and better education of gun owners to prevent their firearms from being used for nefarious purposes.
Oklahoma Gun Death Statistics
Cleveland County alone accounted for nearly 20-30 percent of all gun-related deaths in Oklahoma annually between 2014 and 2017. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths each year were gun-related suicides, while the rate of gun-related homicides in Oklahoma sharply rose between 2014 and 2015.
Nearly one-quarter of total deaths in Oklahoma each year are a result of gun crime. Gun-assisted suicides and homicides ranked first and second respectively as the leading types of violent deaths between 2012 and 2016, with an average of 743 deaths per year (suicide) and 268 per year (homicides) being reported.
Proper gun storage and firearm safety can help reduce rates of gun mortality both nationally and locally. Approximately 1 out of 3 homes with kids have access to unlocked, loaded guns, which can create a dangerous environment if they are able to access these guns without parental supervision.
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that 31 percent of accidental deaths caused by firearms might be prevented with the addition of two simple devices: a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator. The safest way to keep a gun in the home is to keep it locked away unloaded when not in use, and to educate family members about proper firearm safety measures.
Other safety measures that can be taken to ensure that a firearm is safely able to be kept in the home include:
- Keeping the muzzle pointed away from anything (and anyone) who is not an intended target;
- Unloading firearms when not actually in use;
- Not relying solely on a gun’s “safety” as a crime-prevention measure, as these are mechanical devices which can become inoperable or otherwise faulty;
- Being sure of what your target is—and what is beyond it;
- Only using ammunition intended for the type of gun you own;
- In the event of a misfire, handling the gun as if it is loaded until it can be safely unloaded;
- Wearing eye and ear protection when shooting;
- Clearing the barrel of obstructions before shooting;
- Not altering or modifying guns (unless done by experts) to produce an unintended result;
- Learning the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm being used.
Gun Crime in Oklahoma
The firearm death rate in Oklahoma in 2016 was 19.52 per 100,000 people, a 35 percent jump since 2009. This places Oklahoma as fifth in the nation for gun death rates, surpassing the national average of 11.96 per 100,000 people in 2016 (itself a 17 percent increase from 2009).
There is no single factor to explain why firearm deaths are climbing in Oklahoma. One news article suggests an uptick in gang-related activity as a possible reason for an increase in firearm mortality rates in recent years. Gun crime disproportionately affects males and people of color across the state, possibly highlighting a need for tighter gun restrictions in the state.
Unfortunately, lawmakers seem to think otherwise about the status of gun crime in Oklahoma. Oklahoma recently passed a constitutional carry bill which will allow most residents over the age of 21 to carry concealed or unconcealed firearms without a license, effective in November 2019.
Although firearms would still be prohibited in certain locations (such as government offices and schools), concerns over how this may affect rates of gun crime remain yet to be seen.
Gun Crime Across the U.S.
More than half (58 percent) of the approximately 51,000 persons who die each year as a result of crime in the US die as a result of firearms, averaging approximately three people every hour. Access to a firearm increases the risk of death by suicide three times, and death by homicide by two times.
The U.S. gun suicide rate is ten times that of other high-income countries, while the U.S. gun homicide rate is twenty-five times that of other high-income countries. Gun-related suicides and homicides are mostly concentrated in urban areas and states with lax gun laws.
Gun crime costs the American economy billions of dollars each year. This totals roughly $12.8 million each day to cover the costs of firearm-related deaths and injuries. The true amount spent by American taxpayers, however, is ultimately unknown. Efforts by gun rights activists to shut down research, alongside the “sheer number of expenses incurred when someone is shot” have complicated efforts to reach the true economic cost of gun crime on Americans each year.
According to 2016 statistics, the following states ranked highest for gun-related deaths:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
And those with the fewest gun deaths were:
- Rhode Island
- New York
- New Jersey
Oklahoma Gun Laws FAQ
Does Oklahoma require background checks in order to purchase/own a gun?
While federal law requires that licensed firearms dealers initiate a background check on the purchaser before selling them a firearm, Oklahoma doesn’t require private sellers (those who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.
Can I Conceal/Open Carry in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma recently passed a constitutional carry bill which will allow most Oklahomans over the age of 21 to carry concealed or unconcealed firearms without a license, effective in November 2019.
Do I Need Firearms Training Before Applying for a License?
Oklahoma’s CCW requirements, make it mandatory to attend an approved firearms training class (or present an exemption from a class) to obtain a CCW license. Firearms training classes are important, especially for new or novice gun users. They provide important insight into how a gun operates and how to keep yourself and your family safe when guns are present in the home.
Do I need a license to own a gun?
Anyone applying for a CCW license in the state of Oklahoma will need to provide proof of residency as well as a valid driver’s license or state photo ID. After constitutional carry goes into effect in November 2019, you won’t need a CCW license, but the ID requirements will remain.
Traveling to another state that does not have constitutional carry, however, will require an Oklahoma-issued CCW license.
Suicide Hotline and Information
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 hours a week for those in need of free, confidential assistance in coping with the feelings of hopelessness and despair often experienced by suicidal individuals.
If you believe that someone is currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or feelings, it is critical to reach out to them and let them know that they are not as alone as they may feel. Possible warning signs of suicidal ideation include:
- Excessive sadness or moodiness;
- Feelings of despair or hopelessness;
- Sleep problems;
- Drastic changes in personality and/or appearance;
- Engaging in dangerous, harmful or risky behavior; and
- Threatening suicide directly.
It is never too early to check in on friends and loved ones to see how they are doing—especially if they have been acting erratic lately and you know that they own (or otherwise have access to) a firearm.
Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Firearms Attorney
The prevalence of gun crime across the country has made many people concerned about firearms. New measures and laws pertaining to guns are watched closely. There is plenty of debate on whether these laws help or hurt in the fight to lower gun crime and gun-related deaths. As long as the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right of gun ownership, firearms will certainly remain a hot topic across the country.
If you require any legal advice or representation for cases regarding guns and firearms in the state of Oklahoma, Angela Singleton is happy to provide answers. Contact us today for a free consultation.