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Senate may vote Monday on ‘open carry’ bill

A legislative staffer tells me that AB 144 – Assemblyman Anthony Portantino’s bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places – will come up for a California State Senate floor vote this Monday, Aug. 22.

The Assembly passed the bill in May on a 46-29 vote, and opponents have been hard at work this summer trying to bring pressure to bear on individual Senators.

Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, in May 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.

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.

UPDATE @ 3:25 P.M.: False alarm; looks as if the staffer with whom I spoke earlier today was mistaken. Trent Hager, Portantino’s chief of staff, just emailed me to say AB 144 “will be brought up soon but not next Monday.”

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.