The state Senate moved a bill to outlaw the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places to its inactive file yesterday, but the bill’s author insists it’s definitely not dead.
AB 144 would make 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.
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. The StopAB144 Twitter group tweeted Tuesday that “at least five Senate Democrats have issues” with the bill, and “all five were Senators that we have been urging to vote no.”
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; some have promised to sue if the bill passes.
Supporters of this bill 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 Friday is the last day to amend bills on the floor; next Friday, Sept. 9, is the last day for each house to pass bills.
A similar bill, AB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, died in September 2010 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.