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New Oklahoma laws target ridesharing programs, background checks for gun buyers

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Dozens of new laws went into effect Wednesday in Oklahoma, including one that sets up regulations for ridesharing programs such as Uber and Lyft and another that requires courts to report certain information for background checks on gun buyers.

Most of the more than 50 new laws that went onto the books deal with the budget and state appropriations for the new fiscal year that begins Wednesday, but several are substantive policy measures.

One bill that was passed in 2014 but didn't take effect until this year requires Oklahoma court clerks to notify the FBI when a person is adjudicated mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed due to a mental illness. The notice, which also includes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, is for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database, which gun dealers must check before selling a firearm.

"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I think something that undergirds our ability to keep and bear arms is to make sure those people who should not have them or who are a danger to themselves or to society don't have access to firearms," said Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who wrote the law.

Treat said the delay in the bill's effective date was to give court clerks across the state more time to prepare for the new requirements.

Oklahoma is one of just eight states that reported fewer than 100 cases of dangerously mentally ill people to the NICS since 2011, with just 26 individuals reported, according to a recent analysis of FBI data by New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety.

Jonas Oransky, a policy attorney for Everytown, said he believes that will change once Oklahoma's new law takes effect. Oransky notes it already is illegal for these individuals to own a gun, but their mental status is not being reported to a database that would prevent them from buying a firearm from a gun shop or dealer.

"The issue is that the prohibition is only as good as the background check system," Oransky said.

The bill also includes a mechanism that would allow a person who has been involuntarily committed or adjudicated to petition the court to have that status removed.

Among the other laws that took effect on Wednesday is one that sets up a regulatory framework for ridesharing programs such as Uber and Lyft. The bill defines ridesharing companies as those that use a digital network or software application to connect passengers and drivers, and establishes a $5,000 annual fee for such companies to operate in Oklahoma.


Online:

House Bill 1614: http://bit.ly/1NLH7fD

Senate Bill 1845: http://bit.ly/1JwKy4z


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