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.

  • Elwood

    “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.”

    This argument is absurd.

    Cops don’t worry about citizens legally carrying firearms. They worry about some criminal scumbag who’s packing.

  • John W

    “Cops don’t worry about citizens legally carrying firearms. They worry about some criminal scumbag who’s packing.”

    Right, and the bad guys wear “Scumbag” nametags so that the cops can tell the difference.

  • No John W. The good guys openly wear guns on their hips so the cops *should* be able to tell the difference.

    Hey Josh, Did you see this?

  • Elwood

    Cops can tell the difference.

    I don’t think any of them would confuse the open carry folks at Starbucks with some gangbanger mofo they’re trying to arrest for dealing dope..

  • John W

    “The good guys openly wear guns on their hips…”

    Apart from one of the “good guys” going mental, let’s say this open carry thing catches on beyond those guys at Starbucks. It becomes almost a fashion statement. So, now it’s people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and zip codes with maybe 15% of those you see on the street, BART, Muni, campus, hanging around the stadium on Raiders game days etc., all displaying a stylish Glock or whatever. The cops can reasonably assume that the gun is unloaded and anybody wearing it on the outside is well-intentioned, right? That’s what I call faith-based gun policy.

  • John W – The California law requiring openly carried firearms to be unloaded is unconstitutional. Try reading the Heller and McDonald decisions sometime. The government may ban concealed carry, but not Openly Carried functional (loaded) firearms.

    The cops should obey the oath they swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

  • Sara and Meg WHO ??!!

    “I don’t think any of them would confuse the open carry folks at Starbucks with some gangbanger mofo they’re trying to arrest for dealing dope..”

    – yeah – as long as the “good guys” are openly carrying at Starbucks and the “bad guys” are on some street corner trading . . ummm .. baseball cards, there’s no confusion – you’re right.

    Now roll your black and white to a scene of “shots fired” and let’s just hypothetically say you’ve got 4 or 5 morons in a gun battle all firing at one another. . . . now – who are the “good guys” – who are the bad guys – maybe all of ’em – – – maybe none of ’em ?

    “Cops can tell the difference.” – – based on sound-bite reasoning perhaps.

    Who you gonna shoot ??

  • Elwood

    There ain’t no good guys in a gangbanger gun battle.

    I suggest that the gangbangers be given marksmanship training so that they can hit and kill the mofos they’re aiming at instead of innocent bystanders.

    If the cops come across four or five morons in a gun battle, I suggest killing them all and let God sort them out.

  • The last gang-bangers to face off in a gunfight was at the O.K. Corral and several of them wore badges.

    It is truly amazing how many people’s perception of reality is based upon what they see on TV and in the movies.

  • Contra Costa Open Carry

    Ever sense California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850, the open carry of firearms in public has been legal. It has only been sense the racist law called the “Mulford Act” in 1967 that the firearms have to be unloaded in incorporated cities. The carrying of loaded firearms is still legal in most of the state.
    There has never been a conviction for violent crimes, of a legally armed open carry advocate in the entire history of California.
    open carry of loaded firearms in public is legal in the majority of the U.S.. some form of legally l loaded carry is in 49 states.
    In every state that has Shall Issue carry licenses, violent person on person crime has dropped up to 45%.

  • John W

    Re: #6

    “The California law requiring openly carried firearems to be unloaded is unconstitutional.”

    If you say so, Justice Nichols. I don’t believe Heller addressed open carry. Had it done so, the California law would no longer be in force.

  • The bad guys and gang bangers do not open carry. Open Carry is a necessary right of the people. The police rely on the people to assist them in reporting and bearing witnesses in crime and the police support the people staying alive until they can get there.

    Most crime and major tragedies in the United States are stopped or intervened in by average citizens, police are also regular citizens with the same rights. Without the people crime would be far worse and police would be ineffective.

    In 1992 LA Riots it took 6 days to be brought under control, during this time defense was left to the people. In some jurisdictions police can take up to 2 hours to respond, even in our area it can take upwards of 11 minutes from the time of the dialed call. In Pleasant Hill during an assault when I called the police it took almost 3 minutes to explain to dispatch and a total of 11 minutes for police to arrive, most assaults and crimes happen in far less time than this.

    In areas where police have been cut back such as Oakland the residents have been refusing to intervene due to potential retaliatory actions. These areas the police have a very difficult time. The people must step in and stop cuts to law enforcement budgets as well as have means necessary to protect themselves.

    During an earthquake our phone lines and police get tied up simple or complex states of emergency you will need the right to be able to carry to protect yourself and get safely from location to location. This in and of itself should be enough for people to want to protect this right.

    The other reason or purpose to carry for self protection is when an individual is under direct threat of death or duress and the only lawful way to carry until a permit may be obtained. We have a law that allows us to carry loaded but to risk confiscation and prosecution while that item to protect yourself is needed is an unnecessary risk.

    Right now most counties do not issue permits to those trained. I can attest to the level of training available to the open carry groups and the level most people take. Most the people who carry also care enough to go through training. If an individual is allowed a permit it would still take months to get a permit and cost prohibitive. During an immediate need, time is of essence.

    This is your rights to self-defense under fire. Protect it! http://www.CA2A.us

  • For those on this thread who have expressed absolute confidence in police while condemning law-abiding citizens being armed in public, you might want to take a look at the facts and evidence.


  • For Liberty

    How much more clearer do the words, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” have to get?

    Whether the guns are being carried by the good and/or the bad, it’s still a loss of liberty.

    Unfortunately, we have a legislature and public, such as John W. in this case, who think this legislation for some reason will provide them some security. As it has been said, the trade of our liberties for security, provides neither liberty nor security.

    This is a ridiculous piece of legislation. But what do you expect from a full-time legislature who also spends time legislating plastic bags.

  • John W

    Hey, for Liberty, why do you think those words are so clear, when it has taken decades for the Supreme Court to determine what they do and do not mean? A judicially conservative Court has already said in Heller and other cases that, while the Second Amendment conveys an individual right, it is not absolute and that there is room for appropriate restrictions regarding who may possess a weapon, what types of weapons can be possessed, where they can be carried and used, and conditions under which they can be sold etc. The problem is that gun rights people think it’s all black and white and that, except for criminals and the mentally ill, there should be no restrictions whatever. How about a shoulder fired rocket launcher in every garage? Why not, if the 2nd Amendment is so clear? Gun laws in this country have never been less restrictive than they are today; and yet you people act as if there is a conspiracy by Obama to knock on your door, confiscate your shotgun and send you off to reprogramming camps. Now that I think of it….!

  • Josh – why did you not mention that AB 144 would essentially require long gun carry in public places of incorproated territories, like Los Angeles and San francisco? Holstered handgun carry make more sense in urban areas.

    Learn more, sign the petition, and take action at http://opencarry.org/ca2011.html

  • Contra Costa Open Carry

    California’s Government Code, Sections 821, 845, and 846 which state, in part: “Neither a public entity or a public employee [may be sued] for failure to provide adequate police protection or service, failure to prevent the commission of crimes and failure to apprehend criminals.”

  • The right to defend oneself and their family is an unalienable right. Natural laws that include the freedom to speak your mind, to assemble, to protest your government, to own property and to defend it are on a higher plane than those passed by mere men. AB144 and other attempts by government to take away the natural right to bear arms for self-defense is as absurd as are politicians like Anthony Portantino.

  • John W

    Re: Gene McCarthy

    Going by memory, I believe that the right to defend oneself in the home was cited as part of the “individual right” ruling in Heller. The question, as with free speech under the First Amendment, is when is there a legitimate state interest in limiting the exercise of those rights. Do you disagree with Justice Scalia that there are limits and that Heller is only the beginning in adjudicating what those limits are?

  • John W.,

    Shoulder-fired rocket launchers are considered “ordinance” and not “arms”. It is important to be able to differentiate between the two terms and classifications. Also, just for your information, there is absolutely nothing wrong with common, law-abiding citizens owning “ordinance”. It is completely legal in the overwhelming majority of States that recognize a Class III tax stamp (CA, as usual, is not one of them). An extensive background check and fees are required for a common, law-abiding citizen to obtain a Class III tax stamp but, with that stamp, they can buy anything from silencers to 40mm grenade launchers and the like. Funny thing is, with the countless numbers of Class III tax stamp holders across the country, they somehow manage to be so law-abiding that you are under the impression that owning “ordinance” is out of the reach of common, law-abiding Americans because one never hears about any criminal malfeasance from these lawful owners of “ordinance”.

    And, just like these Class III tax stamp holders, common, law-abiding gun owners across the country simply do not commit violent crimes in statistically significant numbers. A perfect example would be California, where Open Carry advocates have NEVER even once, during the State’s entire 160-year history (the overwhelming majority of this time, Loaded Open Carry was legal instead of current Unloaded Open Carry laws), committed a violent crime of any nature while armed. As it stands, 41 States in the Union have “shall-issue” concealed carry laws and 43 have Open Carry laws. Somehow, with the overwhelming majority of these States allowing for citizen carry, the only effect that we can verify from the FBI’s UCR statistics is that violent crime has managed to become dramatically reduced nationwide. Obviously, this fact does not bode well for the gun control lobby’s “more guns = more violent crime” theory.

  • John W.,

    And to your point regarding the US Supreme Court’s twin rulings in Heller and McDonald, logic follows that if guns can be banned in “sensitive places” such as government buildings, then citizen carry would therefore NOT be banned in all other “nonsensitive places” in public settings. Therefore, aside from towing the gun control lobby’s line, there is no valid reason for common, law-abiding citizens to NOT be able exercise their basic and fundamental civil right to self defense in the overwhelming majority of public places not considered “sensitive”.

  • John W

    Yih-Chau Chang,

    That’s interesting info on the “40mm grenade launchers and the like.” Yikes! With some of the survivalist “militias” in Idaho and elsewhere (who are law-abiding until they aren’t), I’ll bet there are some awesome arsenals out there. Should come in handy if, in the memorable words of former Nevada Senate candidate, Sharon Angle, we need to “resort to Second Amendment remedies.”

    Although Supreme Court rulings obviously trump what I think about these matters, I simply disagree that it makes sense to have proliferation of people walking around packing. If the gun manufacturers and dealers have their way, gun toting will become as popular as I-Phones.

    Today, I sat in my car in a fast-food parking lot and saw the jerks in the car across from me toss their trash out the window, even though the restaurant trash can was literally just three feet away. It was civic-minded but really dumb of me, but I couldn’t resist saying something to the guy as I walked past his car on my way to dump my own garbage into the trash can. The reason it was dumb was that somebody with that attitude is just the type who might like to teach me a lesson with a gun from his glove compartment.

    It’s one thing to hypothesize that permissive open or concealed carry laws deter crime (I doubt that). It’s another thing to say that we should live in a world where I have to worry about making an honest mistake driving, expressing myself to somebody who is doing something stupid or rude, or wearing a Giants jersey in Dodger country, because a (until then) “law-abiding” jerk might get hot-headed and threaten me with his gun. It’s one thing that somebody might punch me in the nose; quite another that he might pull out a weapon, whether he actually fires or not.

    According to the feature story in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine, one in eight gun dealers is located along the Texas/Mexico border. No doubt, they are selling the guns to little old ladies who want to protect themselves against purse snatchers. The Administration wants rules to keep track of multiple-high-power gun purchases from those dealers, because of obvious suspicions that those gun sales are feeding the violence on the other side of the border. But, true to form, the gun lobby apparently thinks that too is violates the spirit of the Second Amendment.

  • John W.,

    Whether you are aware of it or not, there is already a “proliferation of people walking around packing”. They are called violent criminals. Those violent criminals are carrying concealed, as evidenced by the daily reports of all manner and number of violent crimes being committed on CA streets and private homes. The only difference is, these violent criminals can pick and choose when and where to commit their crimes, especially with those citizens who choose to turn a blind eye to this reality (and likely remain more blissful in their intentional or unintentional “ignorance”. For those who choose not to ignore this reality and therefore, have valid concerns for their own personal safety in public settings, exercising their basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right to self defense makes sense in a most logical and reasonable way.

    Quite frankly, I don’t share your apparent discomfort with common, law-abiding citizens who own firearms or any assorted ordinance with a Class III tax stamp. The fact that they have passed the extensive background check process and have a mind to be aware of the reality and existence of violent criminals actually allows me to breathe a little easier in their presence. If anything, I have a far more meaningful degree of trust in that individual than just any unarmed Joe Blow off the street.

    As far as hypothesizing about the deterrent effect of Right-to-Carry laws on violent crime, the only reason the fact that Right-to-Carry laws reduce violent crime in society is not more widely accepted is because of the politically-charged nature of the debate. If you bothered to read the article I posted above, then you would know that the facts and evidence demonstrating this beneficial effect on society is both voluminous and comprehensive. Although gun-toting will never “become as popular as iPhones” (guns tend to be a pain in the rear to constantly carry around and most of the general population appreciate creature comforts too much to regularly engage in the practice), there certainly wouldn’t be anything wrong with the phenomenon if it did, especially given its obvious benefits to society.

    As far as your concern about militias, as long as our elected civil servants honor their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, then there is absolutely nothing to worry about. I don’t find any of these militias to be any more of a threat to me or society than anyone with a Class III tax stamp.

    Regarding your “what if” scenarios, those have been played out in living color throughout the rest of the country in States that already have permissive Right-to-Carry laws. Funny thing is, legally-armed citizens don’t commmit violent crimes in statistically-significant numbers in any of those situations that you’ve alluded to above. For a good look at the reality of defensive gun use compared to criminal gun use, look here:


    As far as your reference to the New York Times article, you might want to do some background research on the US Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious debacle. The “obvious suspcions that those gun sales are feeding the violence on the other side of the border” are very real…and they are fed by a gunwalking scandal where more than 2,000 firearms were not only allowed to walk across the border but the BATFE actually encouraged protesting gun dealers to place those guns into the hands of known straw buyers who were smuggling them into Mexico. Operation Fast and Furious has now turned into an international incident where Mexican officials are demanding that those US Justice Department officials responsible for thise botched operation be extradited to face trial in Mexico. Funny thing is, no one in the Obama Administration is willing to fess up to this Watergate-sized outrage. It is our own federal government that has been actively feeding the drug cartel violence south of the border and they are stonewalling Congressional investigations into the matter as we speak.

  • Elwood

    “The reason it was dumb was that somebody with that attitude is just the type who might like to teach me a lesson with a gun from his glove compartment.”

    I’d estimate that it’s about 100 times more likely that he’d just kick your ass.

  • John W

    In this case, it would have been an even fight. I may be foolish, but I am smart enough to keep my mouth shut if the other guy is 6’4 250. But, as to the likelihood of using fists rather than pulling out an available gun, there have been enough road rage and parking lot rage incidents with unhappy endings right here in the Bay Area to suggest that you are mistaken. The open carry guys in Starbucks, much as I disagree with them on everything, are well-trained and self-disciplined about firearms. They are not the ones people like me worry about.

  • For Liberty

    John W.,

    What do you mean, “you people”? Those rights that you so freely don’t mind giving away are yours, just as much as they are mine.

    There is already in place, sufficient laws in CA regarding the carrying of firearms. For example: Penal Code (PC) 12031 (a)(1) = finds a person “guilty of carrying a loaded firearm when he or she carries a loaded firearm on his or her person or in a vehicle while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city or in any public place or on any public street in a prohibited area of unincorporated territory.”

    PC 171e = provides any police officer the authority to inspect any gun being carried by a person/s while in public. The section reads, “In order to determine whether or not a firearm is loaded…..peace officers are authorized to examine any firearm carried by anyone on his person or in a vehicle while in any place or on the grounds of any place in or on which the possession of a loaded firearm is prohibited. Refusal to allow a peace officer to inspect a firearm pursuant to the provisions of this section constitutes probable cause for arrest for violation of Section 171c or 171d.”

    These above mentioned laws, already in place in the CA Penal Code, provide sufficient enforcement tools if needed against the scary “Open Carry” guys and gals who hang out at Starbucks on a Saturday morning. Those laws allow the police to walk right up to them, request an inspection. Any guns found loaded could result in an arrest. Any refusal for inspection could result in an arrest. Incident to any lawful arrest, the guns will be inspected and confiscated.

    Your fast food parking lot example conveys that this law will provide you a sense of security. Again, please understand that we will have neither (security or liberty). Those laws quoted above provide the security that you are looking for. It does not appear that this new proposed legislation, if passed. is going to provide us any more security than what’s already in place.

    And what does this CA state proposed legislation have to do with a conspiracy against Obama?

  • For Liberty

    John W.,

    Would this be the conspiracy involving Obama that you may be referring to (see the link to the below listed article)?:


  • John W

    To “For Liberty,” Yih-Chau Chang etc.

    Appreciate everybody’s spirited comments. I’m obviously out-gunned here, so to speak. Nothing I say will convince you, and vice versa. So, for my part, I’m calling it a day on this topic in this venue. As for the “you people” referenced by “For Liberty,” poor choice of words on my part. My bad. Please don’t shoot.

  • Sara and Meg WHO ???!!!

    #8 –

    “There ain’t no good guys in a gangbanger gun battle.

    If the cops come across four or five morons in a gun battle, I suggest killing them all and let God sort them out.”

    Except in *this* particular gun battle – 1/2 the involved parties were “open carry” advocates “defending” themselves and the other 1/2 were the “gangbangers” – –

    And, according to our resident originator of useless anecdote backed by sound-bite reasonining the cops could simply send them all off to get planted six feet under.

    Congratulations Elwood !

    You just failed one of the most basic of scenarios in officer training . . . .

  • Elwood

    @ #29

    You are obviously hallucinating badly.

    Get help.

  • Sara and Meg WHO ??!!!

    #30 –

    Ummmm – Elwood – Need I remind you that YOU’RE the one that suggested that the cops simply gun down EVERYONE involved in the hypothetical scenario – see #8 ???

    Try to stay focussed and on point, could you ?

    Remember . . . ?

    The original point YOU made was that cops CAN differentiate good guys from bad . . . but it seems like YOU can’t accurately make such a distinction within the context of a simply hypothetical discussion – SO HOW THE hell would you expect cops to make a distinction in a real fire fight ???

    LOL ! ! ! ! !!

  • Elwood

    Dear Sarah,

    I don’t do hypotheticals with the hallucinatory.

    Get help.

  • For Liberty

    Thanks for the discussion John W. and don’t worry, I won’t shoot. I abide by the rules.