Senate committee OKs ‘open carry’ ban bill

A bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places was approved by the state Senate Public Safety Committee on a 4-3 vote yesterday.

AB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, earlier this month passed the Assembly on a 46-30, party-line vote. It now moves to the state Senate Appropriations Committee before heading to the floor.

Saldana called Tuesday’s vote a crucial test for her legislation, as the state Senate is usually more reluctant to pass public safety measures than the Assembly. “I believe the committee members understand the risk to the public and to law enforcement if this unregulated practice is allowed to continue without putting at least some restrictions in place,” she said in her news release.

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.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office says he hasn’t taken a position on the bill yet.

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.