As with many other bills Gov. Jerry Brown handled this session, he seemed to split the baby Sunday when deciding on bills dealing with how, where and when firearms can be carried in California, and by whom.
As I reported here earlier today, Brown signed AB 144, banning the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places – a bill supported by gun-control groups and law enforcement by opposed by gun-rights advocates. But he also signed SB 610 to streamline, speed and cheapen the process to seek a permit to carry a concealed handgun, something gun-rights advocates supported.
Brown also signed a bill letting the state Justice Department use an existing fee to fund its program tracking and seizing firearms from people who aren’t legally allowed to have them, and a bill requiring the state to preserve buyer information on rifles and shotguns sold or transferred in the state, just as it already does for handguns – both opposed by gun-rights advocates. But he pleased those same advocates by vetoing a bill on handgun ammunition sales, saying it’s something the courts should work out first.
AB 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, makes it a misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Violations are punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are security guards, hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under certain conditions.
“The right to Open Carry has been legal in the State of California since its inception, and there has never been a single case of an Open Carry advocate ever committing a violent crime in the Golden State’s entire 160-year history,” said Responsible Citizens of California President Adnan Shahab of Fremont, adding his group will work with others to challenge the new law in court. “Since no problem has ever existed that needs to be addressed or fixed, there was no reason for AB 144 in the first place.”
But California Police Chiefs Association President David Maggard Jr. said today that open carry was “a threat to the safety of the communities we police and the safety of our officers. The Governor’s leadership in signing this legislation will help assure that felons and gang members cannot openly carry an unloaded gun with impunity, all the while carrying the ammunitions for the weapon on their person, because with open carry, officers were prohibited from conducting any further investigation to determine if the individual is legally in possession of the weapon.”
SB 610 by state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, requires that a person need not pay for handgun training before the county sheriff has decided whether that person has good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon. If the sheriff finds no good cause, the bill requires that he or she inform the person why. One way or the other, the sheriff must give notice within 90 days of the application or 30 days after receiving the applicant’s criminal background check from the Justice Department, whichever is later.
Lots more, after the jump…
SB 819 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, lets the state Justice Department use money from the $19 Dealer Record of Sale fee that’s collected on each firearm sale to enforce the existing Armed Prohibited Persons System program. APPS, launched in 2007, identifies prohibited persons so law enforcement can go collect the illegally possessed weapons.
The state Justice Department’s Bureau of Firearms has identified more than 18,000 Californians who illegally own tens of thousands of firearms, a list that grows by 15 to 20 per day. State and local officials had said they lacked resources to confiscate this enormous backlog of weapons, much less keep up with the list’s new additions.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday praised Brown “for signing this law that will authorize our Special Agents to utilize existing funds to seize firearms from felons, gang members, the mentally ill and others who cannot legally possess such weapons. Seizing guns from the most dangerous among us is the kind of smart law enforcement that makes a difference in the everyday lives of Californians.”
The California Association of Firearms Retailers had argued that the DROS fee is supposed to pay for the costs of a criminal and mental background check to determine a buyer’s eligibility to lawfully own a firearm, and so redirecting some of it to another, more general purpose effectively turns it into a tax.
AB 809 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, requires the state to hold onto purchaser information for sales or transfers for long guns just as it does for handguns. Brown issued a signing message saying he sees no reason why there should be a difference between the two.
And Brown vetoed SB 427 by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, which would’ve clarified and amended a 2009 law so that handgun ammunition vendors would have to register with local police and share their buyer records with police but nobody else. It was opposed by gun-rights advocates, who said the bill’s list of ammunition is too expansive, requiring registration of calibers that are popular among hunters and collectors.
A Fresno County judge in January struck down the 2009 law, which bans mail-order ammunition sales and requires that handgun ammunition purchases be registered with law enforcement, as unconstitutionally vague; the case is now on appeal. “Let’s keep our powder dry on amendments until the court case runs its course,” Brown wrote in his veto message for SB 427.