Assembly passes bill to ban ‘open carry’

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.

open carryAB 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.”

The California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) support AB 144, he noted.

“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.

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.

  • Chuck DeVore and the Republicans deserve credit for killing AB 1934 last year. Through a series of literally last minute parliamentary maneuvers they ran out the clock.

    I find it curious that the fact AB 144 is defying the Federal Courts is not being published.

    Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43) flatly stated in the Public Safety Committee hearing that the Open Carry ban is unconstitutional, right before he voted for it.

    Such is the nature of Democrats.

  • Elwood

    The open carry folks have met a couple of times at Starbucks in Pleasant Hill.

    I witnessed one of these occasions and as near as I could tell there were no damsels fainting at the sight of holstered unloaded weapons, nor was there any presence by PHPD.

  • While the Prieto case mentioned above did deny the Plaintiffs the right to carry concealed weapons through a “shall-issue” process, it did reconfirm the Peruta case findings that Unloaded Open Carry was a fundamental 2nd Amendment Right that allowed for concealed carry to remain a “may-issue” condition for law-abiding Californians. Therefore, while certainly not a victory for “shall-issue” CCW in California, the Prieto case is a huge confirmation victory for Unloaded Open Carry in the Golden State, a development that California legislators would be wise to recognize as AB 144 heads into the State Senate.

  • Josh Richman

    Click here to read the Peruta v. San Diego ruling – issued in the federal court for Southern California in December, now pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – to which Mr. Chang refers in comment #3.

    I’m not sure I agree with his assessment of how these cases will bear upon the forthcoming legislative – and probably, in due time, judicial – debate over open carry, though I do see that the judge in today’s Prieto order wrote that “(u)nder the statutory scheme, even if Plaintiffs are denied a concealed weapon license for self-defense purposes from Yolo County, they are still more than free to keep an unloaded weapon nearby their person, load it, and use it for self-defense in circumstances that may occur in a public setting.”

  • John W

    Re: #2

    “…there were no damsels fainting at the sight of holstered, unloaded weapons…”

    They will the first time the people showing up with guns strapped on to make a statement about 2nd Amendment rights don’t look like they’re from the neighborhood, if you get my drift.

  • On the same day, a Federal District judge ruled against a CCW case affirming the right to openly carry a loaded handgun in public, in California.

    That is the second time a District Court judge came to that conclusion in a 9th Circuit District Court. On May 2nd, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed Open Carry in public.

    The US Supreme Court affirmed Open Carry in both the Heller and McDonald decisions.

    Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43) stated quite plainly that AB 144 is unconstitutional, and then voted for it.

    Today, the US Supreme Court asked the Maryland Supreme Court why the 2nd Amendment applies only to the home in the Williams v Maryland case in response to a Cert petition from Williams who was sentenced to three years in prison for carrying a loaded gun in public.

    The Maryland Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment applies only to the home and criticized US Supreme Court Justice Scalia for a poorly worded decision.

    Any bets on whether or not the five justices who voted for Heller and McDonald are going to agree their decision was poorly worded?

  • John W

    I wonder when the Supremes will rule for open and concealed carry on their turf during US Supreme Court proceedings. I think the opern carry folks should picket for that outside the Court.

  • On page 7 of the Peruta ruling, the Defendant, San Diego County Sheriff, William Gore, even admitted that Unloaded Open Carry was the fundamental 2nd Amendment Right of every law-abiding Calfornian with the following:

    “Accordingly, Defendant argues that concealed
    carry pursuant to Penal Code section 12050 is not the sole outlet for carrying a handgun for self defense.
    Defendant highlights other California provisions that permit unloaded open carry and loaded
    open carry if the individual is in immediate grave danger. In light of the foregoing, and based on
    the Supreme Court’s approval of cases upholding concealed weapons bans, Defendant maintains that
    the restrictions at issue here are ‘presumptively lawful.'”

    In addtion, Chief Federal Judge Irma Gonzales spends pages 8-10 addressing the specifics regarding how California’s Open Carry laws fulfill the 2nd Amendment Right to bear arms and subjects the level of scrutiny to reasonableness review or intermediate judicial scrutiny as presented by the Defendant, San Diego County Sheriff, William Gore.

    These very clear findings in Peruta were simply confirmed on even more explicit terms in the Prieto case, an example of which Mr. Richman provided above. If Assemblyman Portantino continues to ignore the clear language in these rulings and decides to continue with this unconstitutional legislation, then he can look forward to having AB 144 ruled as unconstitutional in the future even if it somehow makes it past the Senate floor and gains the Governor’s signature. He can then look forward to the same humbling experience that Assemblyman DeLeon witnessed personally as AB 962, the ammunition registration bill for 2010, was deemed unconstitutional in a successful court challenge.

  • Troy Jackson

    RE: Open Carry LAW

    First of all it is every citizens right to be protected by the state and law enforcement. However, with the uprising of gangs, drugs, due to the failure of California, and the Government it has led to the increase in crime caused by lawless individuals who will now pray on citizens that are unable to protect themselves. It is the responsibility of legislation and judges and people in government to provide the ability to protect its citizens but, since they do not, this allows the criminals to take advantage of the situation. It is said that the stronger will always hurt the weaker one and in this case of open carry it takes away the leveling ground citizens have to be able to defend themselves in cases of being victims of lawless people who have no regard to citizens safety and citizens lives. The police has their hands tied and are unable to protect the citizens today and in fact, when lawless people has violent intentions the police are only there to pick up the pieces of an event even if they are present. The ability of an open carry person or a person with a CCW are able to reduce the situation if they had more rights. The California government is quickly becoming a problem to the safety of its citizens by constantly restricting them from protecting themselves from lawless people. I would definitely sue the State of California for not protecting me if I was to get severely injured by a criminal especially when I am restricted from protecting myself by open carrying or having a CCW. I will suggest that any person who is restricted from being able to protect oneself because of California Law have the ability to sue California for not protecting its citizens,tourists, and any visitors coming into the state because each and every citizen requires that California now protect them each and every day since this law will go into affect.

  • Tim clark

    Gun control works ask the experts. Fox hitler and all the other great leaders.