The Assembly voted 45-29 today to pass a Southern California lawmaker’s bill to prohibit the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places, sending the bill onward to the state Senate.
AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.
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. Opponents 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 checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.
“I am very pleased that my fellow legislators agree this is a sensible gun ban that should be law in California,” Portantino said in a news release. “I’ve worked closely with law enforcement personnel who are concerned that the open display of firearms in crowded public places creates some very real public safety issues. As I’ve said all along, our families deserve to feel safe in our parks and coffeshops; after all, you don’t need a gun to order a cup of coffee.”
“Open Carry wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching bad guys. Instead, they are tied up dealing with frantic calls from the public about gun-toting men and women on Main Street, California. As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”
Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, said the bill met “a very heated and very robust debate, and a lot of the points made by the Republican Assembly members were very valid; overall they represent the voice of a large part of the California community, particularly those concerned with Second Amendment rights.”
Chang said there’s a “pretty good chance of seeing it defeated on the Senate floor,” and if not, Gov. Jerry Brown “has supported second amendment rights in the past, so I believe there’s a good chance he wont sign the bill.” If the bill is signed into law, he said, it will face a challenge in court.
A similar bill, AB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, died in September without a final vote after two days of tense maneuvering; Saldaña was then term-limited out of office. The state Senate approved her bill on a 21-16 vote after state senators Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, and Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, lent last-minute support despite a phone and fax blitz by gun-rights activists. But the bill had to win a concurrence vote in the Assembly, where Republicans threatened to run out the clock on the bill by debating it until after the midnight deadline — thus also threatening other bills awaiting votes. Majority Leader Chuck Calderon, D-Whittier, eventually won a motion to delay AB 1934′s consideration, and there it died.
UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M.: Wow – it has become a truly crappy day for gun-rights advocates in California. This just in from the Associated Press:
A federal judge has ruled against gun-rights advocates who had challenged how much discretion California law enforcement officials have in issuing concealed weapons permits.
U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. in Sacramento supported a policy by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, who says applicants must have a reason, such as a safety threat, to legally carry a hidden gun.
Prieto was sued by advocates who say sheriffs, who issue most such permits, must give them to any applicants as long as they are not mentally ill, do not have a criminal background and complete a training course. Similar lawsuits were filed in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.
In his ruling Monday, England said the Second Amendment “does not create a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon in public.”
Click here to read England’s order in its entirety.