OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – As we previously reported about an incident that took place on Tuesday, March 11th. 40 Oklahoma Sheriffs were asked to leave their weapons outside the senate gallery door or leave.
Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert had stated that they had been told, “we would need to either leave or take them off and leave them outside the door.”
The Sheriffs then identified themselves and asked why they needed to disarm. The gentlemen told them that a certain state Senator had asked them to and the lady on the right stated it was the Senate Leadership that had asked them to leave.
Several questions have arisen as to who or why anyone in the Oklahoma Senate would not want those Sheriffs, who are trained to protect and serve everyone and are required by law to have their weapons on them and ready to take action if needed at any time, to be allowed to carry in the Senate Gallery.
Was this just a rogue group of Sergeant at Arms? Was it one of the Senators themselves who decided that they did not want anyone with a gun to be allowed into the Senate Gallery and had the Sergeant at Arms remove the Sheriffs? Could it have been the Senate leadership who did not realize that the Sheriffs would be present that day and then had the Sergeant at Arms remove them?
This past Wednesday Colbert went on the Pat Campbell Show on 1170 KFAQ to discuss with Pat Campbell what had happened.
Colbert told Campbell, “We asked who is asking us to leave and the Sergeant at Arms said Leadership that is all he would say. We have a right to know who is asking us to leave because we also deserve the right to vote these people out of office.” As you listen to the interview one of the names that comes up as to who might be responsible, the Senate President Pro Tempore, Brian Bingman’s name is given.
So to see if we could get answers to these questions we first tried to contact Bob Craig, Chief Sergeant of the Sergeant at Arms. When we started to ask questions Craig referred us to the Director of Communications office and then disconnected the call.
We then contacted Malia Bennett, Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Senate, who told us that there were no prior notification given and under Senate rule 10-2 if anyone coming into the Senate gallery wearing a side arm they are to notify the Senate Chief of Staff ahead of time. Bennett stated that the notification did not happen in this situation.
Senate Rule 10-2 states:
RULE 10-2. GALLERIES AND HALLWAYS. The President Pro Tempore or a designee is empowered to assign seats in the galleries of the Senate and is empowered to order the galleries and hallways of the Senate cleared to preserve order or to ensure the safety of the members of the Senate. Firearms and weapons are not allowed on the Senate floor, in the gallery, or in any Senate area without permission of the Chief of Staff. Conduct in the galleries of the Senate shall conform to the following:
1. No food, drink, signs, placards, noisemakers, flash cameras or any other item which might cause distraction or disturb the decorum of the Senate shall be allowed in the galleries;
2. Applause shall not be permitted;
3. Articles carried by visitors may be required to be checked at the door to the galleries by a Senate employee; and
4. Visitors in the galleries shall be required to conduct themselves with dignity and in an orderly fashion.
Bennett said that once the Chief of Staff found out who the group was and why they were in the building, the Sergeant at Arms allowed the sheriffs back into the gallery, still wearing their sidearms, Bennett said.
After the sheriffs returned to the gallery, Sen. Don Barrington, R-Lawton, recognized the group from the Senate floor.
Bennett said it was her understanding that Bob Craig was the one that had talked to them but that she was not present when the incident took place. When asked about Colbert’s statement that a certain state Senator had asked them to leave and when asked to clarify was told it was the Senate Leadership with no rule being given, Bennett said, “I was in my office on the 3rd floor I can not address what conversations was held or what may have not been said.”
We have requested to speak with those individuals, Sergeant at Arms, that were present and involved in the initial discussion with the Sheriffs so we could find out exactly what took place. Our request has been denied and instead we received the following statement from the Senate President Pro Tempore, Brian Bingman.
“While Senate Rule 10-2 was part of our Senate rules and policy long before any of the current members were elected to office, this is the first time anyone is aware of that there has been an issue. As we have had numerous members of law enforcement join us in the Senate through the years without any difficulties, it is obvious that somewhere along the way there was a miscommunication this past week. Going forward the Senate will be proactive, working with the Department of Public Safety and others to make sure there is improved communication about the process so that such a misunderstanding will not happen again in the future. We greatly appreciate the service of Oklahoma’s law enforcement community,” concluded Bingman, Sapulpa-12 (R).