Saying Oklahomans shouldn't be treated like common criminals for raising gaming fowl, Senator Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta has announced plans to file a bill for the 2003 legislative session lowering the penalties; that after the passage of State Question 687 in Tuesday's General Election.
"State Question 687 makes it a felony to even raise these birds. That means honest, hard-working Oklahomans would be lumped in with murderers, rapists and drug-dealers. They would also lose basic rights like voting and the right to own firearms to protect their families," explained Shurden.
Senator Shurden said his legislation would make it a misdemeanor offense instead of a felony. His bill would also eliminate the possibility of jail time for those convicted of crimes related to cockfighting.
"We're in the middle of a statewide budget crisis. The Department of Corrections is already strapped. We don't need to add to this crisis by forcing them to lock up citizens for raising chickens. It's wrong and it's a waste of resources," said Shurden.
In addition to changing violations of the new law from a felony to a misdemeanor offense and eliminating jail time, Senator Shurden said he would also limit the maximum fines allowed under the law.
"Since the law takes effect Friday, November the 8th I am hopeful that law enforcement and the D.A.'s will wait on the passage of my legislation before they arrest or prosecute people for chicken crimes. Governor-elect Brad Henry has already stated the penalties are too severe, so I'm sure we can work together to achieve this goal," said Shurden.
"Another thing that many Oklahomans may not realize is that because the law takes effect so soon, some 2.8 million chickens may be slaughtered because the farmers don't want to face felony charges for simply owning them," explained Shurden.
"The majority of citizens have said they don't want cockfighting. But I seriously doubt they want to waste millions of their tax dollars locking up fellow citizens for raising gaming birds when state agencies are being forced to furlough workers and our schools are struggling. I think most Oklahomans would agree this is a much better approach," said Shurden.