In a rambling Facebook live video posted hours ahead of a major legislative victory, the head of Oklahoma's Second Amendment Association Don Spencer drew himself into controversy after talking about using a petition by a pro-gun control group with thousands of names as target practice.
Signatures for the petition were collected by the group Moms Demand Action -Oklahoma. The anti-gun violence group was collecting names in hopes of changing the minds of state senators and Gov. Kevin Stitt into blocking the state’s permitless carry gun bill from becoming law.
The law allows any Oklahoman over the age of 21 to carry a firearm without training, licensing and by extension any background checks associated with the old licensing process. There were roughly 4,000 names attached to the effort to stop the bill.
“You guys look real closely right here. There's the first bullseye… See the bullseye? Pew. Pew. Pew,” Spencer said in the video mimicking shooting the crude target he had drawn while holding up the petition packet, flipping through and inadvertently showing names. As of Thursday morning, the video had hundreds of comments and more than 1500 views.
Moments later, Spencer made a similar comment again on a segment to the National Rifle Association’s Dana Loesch on the pro-gun group’s streaming network, NRA-TV. Loesch is known as one of the NRA’s more combative defenders of the group’s agenda.
“You may love this,” Spencer said during the interview. “I don’t know if you can see this, but this was [Moms Demand Action’s] petition that they had with 4,000 people on it and I drew a little bullseye on it there for you. Right there.” Both he and Loesch laughed.
But not everyone thought what Spencer said was funny, particularly members of Moms Demand Action.
“I don't know. Do you think it would be a threat if someone used you as a target? Kind of sounds like it,” member Cacki Parch said.
Spencer's comments come on the heels of criticism of the NRA for publishing an article in a recent issue in the group’s magazine “American Rifleman” with the headline "Target Practice" next to a picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, (D-AZ) who was a victim of a mass shooting in 2011. The image has been changed in the magazine’s online version but remains in the print version.
Spencer calls concerns from opponents ridiculous and doubled down on his comments.
“It's just a piece of paper,” Spencer said on Wednesday. “We use paper for bullseyes and target practice.”
Spencer said he had several personal conversations with Governor Stitt before the signing.
In a response emailed to News 9, a spokesperson for the governor said, "No one’s name should ever be used, under any circumstance, for target practice, and the governor finds any such remarks absolutely appalling."
The passage of the bill is seen as a major victory for pro-gun advocates. It was the second round for the measure which supporters call “constitutional carry.” The name comes from the belief the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution allows citizens to carry firearms without licensing registration or interference from the government.
A similar bill was passed by both houses of the state legislature last session but was vetoed by former Gov. Mary Fallin (R) much to the disappointment of her Republican colleagues and pro-gun voters. At the time, Fallin noted concerns of reducing the level of background checks and the impact a lack of licensing would have on law enforcement.
“[Permitless carry] eliminates the current ability of Oklahoma law enforcement to distinguish between those carrying guns who have been trained and vetted, and those who have not,” she said.
Prior to becoming law, this year’s bill was among the most fiercely opposed measures in a session which has moved quickly through a long list of legislation. Apart from the petition efforts of MDA, a group of faith leaders from around the state held a vigil in front of Stitt’s office to protest the bill.
Opposition efforts fell short. The measure passed the state senate with an overwhelming majority of 40-6. Stitt signed the bill that same afternoon making Oklahoma the 15th state with a permitless carry law. The law goes into effect Nov. 1.