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Tulsa police chief calls for gun reform

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Across the country, police chiefs and sheriffs are calling for stricter gun laws following a spate of mass shootings. In Oklahoma, a state with some of the loosest gun laws in the country, the police chief of Tulsa says the nation's response to gun violence needs to be transformed. Max Bryan with member station KWGS reports.

MAX BRYAN, BYLINE: When a gunman killed four people with an AR-15 at a Tulsa hospital last year, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said he would leave gun restrictions up to the Oklahoma legislature. But a few weeks later, he started talking about guns as a problem in Tulsa. Fast-forward a year and Oklahoma lawmakers are still discussing loosening gun laws while Franklin's tone has only gotten sharper.

WENDELL FRANKLIN: Here we are today where we've recognized that we have some issues that need to be addressed, and we are operating as though everything is normal, and I don't think everything is normal.

BRYAN: Franklin says permitless carry has led to more guns being stolen from cars. He wants untraceable ghost guns and straw purchasing tightly regulated. And he isn't opposed to a waiting period before buying assault rifles. He says the country should respond to gun violence the same way it responded with security changes after 9/11.

FRANKLIN: Law enforcement - we are the experts. We're the subject matter experts at protecting America - right? - protecting our cities. And, you know, we should be utilizing that in that manner. So I am charged with protecting this community. And if there are better ways of protecting it, I think we should be looking at those better ways to protect it.

BRYAN: Franklin isn't the only high-ranking official who is speaking out. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a proclamation saying that Second Amendment rights go hand in hand with gun reform. Kay Malan of gun safety group Moms Demand Action says Bynum's proclamation shouldn't just be written off as empty words.

KAY MALAN: Tulsa also happens to be in the list of the top 50 cities with the most gun violence. So it's important for our leaders in our cities and our states to make - come out and make statements publicly about this.

BRYAN: Other leaders in law enforcement have spoken out after mass shootings, like the Los Angeles County sheriff following the Monterey Park shooting and the Nashville police chief after a mass shooting at a private school in his city. Still, not much is changing in Oklahoma, and that's in part because of state laws that local officials like Franklin say they can't trump. Oklahoma actually has an anti-red flag law, so courts here can't confiscate guns from people who could be dangerous to others or themselves. State Representative Kevin McDugle says he supports law enforcement and agreed they are public safety experts. But he also believes that when it comes to the Second Amendment, it's absolute.

KEVIN MCDUGLE: We have to work within the realms of the Constitution to do what is best with those subject matter experts. So if he's got ideas outside of changing the Second Amendment or the rights of the people, then by all means, let's look at that.

BRYAN: It's a position many Oklahoma lawmakers share, and Franklin says they're not eager to engage when he brings up gun policy reform.

FRANKLIN: It's an immediate pivot to some other topic. No one really wants to talk about it.

BRYAN: So even as Franklin's message of gun reform has grown stronger over time, the stalemate continues in Tulsa as in other parts of the country.

For NPR News, I'm Max Bryan in Oklahoma. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Max Bryan
[Copyright 2024 Public Radio Tulsa]

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