A bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public moved ahead today as the state Senate Public Safety Committee approved it 4-2.
AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, now goes to the state Senate Appropriations Committee; the Assembly passed it last month. The bill would make openly carrying an unloaded handgun in any public place or street a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000; law enforcement personnel are exempt as are hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.
“When average Californians go to the mall, movies or Starbucks they shouldn’t face tense situations where law enforcement officials are called out to investigate openly carried firearms,” Portantino said in his news release today. “Our limited resources should not be diverted from real crime situations. Open Carry puts the public in danger as well as law enforcement personnel. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t take a hand gun to buy a cheeseburger.”
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.
Among the bill’s supporters are the California Police Chiefs Association; the Peace Officers Research Association of California; Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca; the cities of Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills; and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, last month 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.