Almost lost in yesterday’s new-budget-deal shuffle was the forward movement of AB 144, the bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places.
The state Senate Appropriations Committee determined the bill would have little or no fiscal impact to the state, so it was referred directly from the committee to the floor without a vote under Senate Rule 28.8, I was told today by Wendy Gordon, spokeswoman for bill author Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge.
A state Senate floor vote is expected sometime this summer, and if it passes, it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk; the Assembly already passed it last month.
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.
Working with the California Police Chiefs Association and the Police Officers Research Association of California on this bill “has made me quite unpopular with the ‘Open Carry’ movement, but law enforcement says it wastes time and resources when they could be out catching bad guys,” Portantino said in a news release issued after yesterday’s committee action. “Instead, they are tied up dealing with calls from the public about gun-toting men and women in the coffee shop. As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”
AB 144 makes it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Violations are 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 security guards, 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.