‘Open Carry’ panel discussion set for East Bay

The Commonwealth Club of California held a panel discussion last night on California’s “open carry” policy – which lets gun owners carry unloaded handguns in plain sight in public places, unless pre-empted by local laws – and a pending bill that would make such behavior a misdemeanor.

Sorry you missed it? You’ll have another chance. The issue is hot enough that another panel discussion on “Guns in Public: Exploring California’s Open Carry Policy” has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17 at the Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette; tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, who authored AB 1934 to change the law and prohibit open-carry behavior, will be there to defend her bill, as will Karen Arntzen, California chapter services coordinator for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Arguing against Saldana’s bill will be Adnan Shahab, Republican candidate for the 20th Assembly District seat, and another panelist yet to be named. I’ll be the moderator.

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law.

Advocates of Saldana’s bill say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers who must check to ensure the guns aren’t loaded in accordance with state law.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved Saldana’s bill to end this practice April 20 on a 5-2 vote; the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved it May 12 on an 11-5 vote; and it’s now awaiting a vote by the full Assembly. If it passes that vote, it’ll still have to work its way through the state Senate and then get the governor’s signature in order to become law.

At last night’s forum at the club’s San Francisco office, Emeryville Police Chief Ken James – who has spoken for the California Police Chiefs Association in supporting Saldana’s bill – faced off with Gun Owners of California Executive Director Sam Paredes. Also participating was Cal law professor Franklin Zimring; San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz was the moderator.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.