BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

Oklahomans remain evenly divided about whether civilians should be able to carry openly displayed sidearms, an Oklahoma Poll conducted in the past week has found.

Forty-six percent of the 504 likely voters surveyed May 6-10 supported open carry, with 42 percent opposing it.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

“I think Oklahomans are very supportive of the Second Amendment and probably always will be,” said Bill Shapard, president of SoonerPoll.com, which conducted the survey, “but there are some (who say), ‘I’m all right with my neighbor having a gun as long as he keeps it in his house. Strapping it to his side and driving off to work or seeing him at McDonald’s – I’m not sure I want to see his gun all the time.’ ”

The results were similar to those from a January 2011 Oklahoma Poll in which 48 percent of respondents favored an open-carry law and 45 percent opposed one.

Gov. Mary Fallin will have to decide within the next few days whether to sign an open-carry measure sent to her this week by the Legislature. The bill essentially allows anyone who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon to wear it openly.

About the poll

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific telephone survey of 504 likely Oklahoma voters May 7-10. The sample included 241 Democrats, 230 Republicans and 33 independents who were selected randomly from those who have established a frequent voting pattern.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Supporters say it enhances personal protection and is an exercise in Second Amendment rights. They point out that most states allow open carry in at least some form.

One poll participant, Bill Newton of Sand Springs, said: “I’m a supporter of people owning arms. … I don’t see a problem with carrying a pistol on your side, particularly with the type of crime we have today. They’re just so bold.”

Opponents worry that openly displayed firearms will encourage violence and cause confusion for law officers.

“There are too many … around here that would shoot anything,” said Barbara Croft of Disney. “If we did that, it would make it too easy to grab a gun and shoot somebody.”

Croft said she and her husband own several guns, including a pistol he carries on their property “to shoot snakes and things like that,” but she’s concerned that easily accessed sidearms will lead to more disputes being settled by guns.

“Now at least they have to go to their truck to get their gun,” she said.

Not surprisingly, respondents who considered themselves “very conservative” were more than twice as likely to favor open carry as those who considered themselves “very liberal,” but the very liberal were four times more likely than the very conservative to strongly oppose open-carry laws.

Men were much more likely than women to favor open carry, and it was viewed with particular favor among those in the 45-54 age group, where 62 percent strongly or somewhat supported the idea.

Opposition was strongest among those earning more than $125,000 per year, those with the highest levels of education, those who rarely or never attend religious services and those in the Tulsa metropolitan area.

“I think Oklahomans will always be strong supporters of the Second Amendment,” said Shapard, “but making it more like the wild West is not necessarily what some want to see.”

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