Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- The Gathering Place is a large, 66.5-acre recreation area that recently opened in the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the bank of the Arkansas River. Numerous news articles have referred to The Gathering Place as a public park, created with donated funds.
Public parks in Oklahoma are not allowed to infringe on the exercise of Second Amendment rights any more than is currently allowed under Oklahoma state law. Oklahoma has a strong preemption statute to prevent such infringements.
FIREARM REGULATION – STATE PREEMPTION
A. 1. The State Legislature hereby occupies and preempts the entire field of legislation in this state touching in any way firearms, components, ammunition, and supplies to the complete exclusion of any order, ordinance, or regulation by any municipality or other political subdivision of this state. Any existing or future orders, ordinances, or regulations in this field, except as provided for in paragraph 2 of this subsection and subsection C of this section, are null and void.
2. A municipality may adopt any ordinance:
a.relating to the discharge of firearms within the jurisdiction of the municipality, and
b.allowing the municipality to issue a traffic citation for transporting a firearm improperly as provided for in Section 1289.13A of this title, provided however, that penalties contained for violation of any ordinance enacted pursuant to the provisions of this subparagraph shall not exceed the penalties established in the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.
3. As provided in the preemption provisions of this section, the otherwise lawful open carrying of a handgun under the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act shall not be punishable by any municipality or other political subdivision of this state as disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or similar offense against public order.
B. No municipality or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt any order, ordinance, or regulation concerning in any way the sale, purchase, purchase delay, transfer, ownership, use, keeping, possession, carrying, bearing, transportation, licensing, permit, registration, taxation other than sales and compensating use taxes, or other controls on firearms, components, ammunition, and supplies.
Oklahoma has no statutes prohibiting firearms in parks. The management of The Gathering Place has enacted a rule banning the carry of guns, or any weapons, on the 66.5-acre riverside park. From gatheringplace.org:
The open or concealed carry of guns, knives or other weapons is strictly prohibited
The management has enforced this rule using park security and local police.
TULSA, Okla., (KTUL) — Since the Gathering Place opened last month, some have criticized the park's strictly enforced rule not to allow guns.
Today. a group rallying for a change to the law was met with protesters on the other side of the issue.
And the issue is allowing guns inside Tulsa’s renowned mega park.
“The Gathering Place is completely ignoring state law,” said Spencer.
The topic came to light when several open-carry gun advocates were asked to leave the park last month.
In the video associated with this article one officer seems to be claiming that the Park is private property.
Officially, park management has dodged direct questions about who owns the park, the public, or some unnamed private party. It should be simple to access public property records in Tulsa and see who is listed as the legal owner.
There are many legal advantages to public ownership. One of those would be avoidance of property taxes.
Many entities attempt to gain the advantages of private ownership with the perks of public ownership. As I recall, in Arizona, a municipality tried to ban guns in a municipal area by “leasing” it to a private entity, which then banned the carry of guns there. It did not work. But if a lease is for a short period, where control of the area is maintained by barriers and security, it might be allowed.
The key in Tulsa is who legally owns the land? Who, if anyone, pays taxes on it? Mere transfer of administrative authority does not allow a public entity to sever the ability of the people to exercise their Constitutional rights on that land. Tulsa World published a letter that sums it up. From a letter to tulsaworld.com:
It looks like the courts will have to decide whether the Gathering Place was actually donated to the City of Tulsa as referenced in several news stories; as the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history.
If public property can be leased to private entities, which then can prevent the exercise of Constitutional rights, a path is opened to squeeze the exercise of those rights into effective non-existence.
Update: On 19 October, 2018 the Tulsa Police department announced that they would not enforce The Gathering Place rule on the prohibition of weapons at the park. From tulsaworld.com:
The Tulsa Police Department will not be required to enforce a Gathering Place policy that bans open and concealed carry of firearms on its premises, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
An attorney representing the city expressed concern over possible litigation against the city if officers actively participated in removing patrons who violated the park’s rule.
It appears The Gathering Place will not attempt to enforce the park rule either:
“We don’t anticipate the Gathering Place is going to ask anyone to leave the park and when that individual refuses, then try to involve our officers in a trespass situation,” said Bender, who mentioned the city acted in response to uncertainty over whether the park is a private or public entity. “I don’t believe the Gathering Place will try to trespass individuals that are open carrying firearms.”
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.