Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill banning ‘open carry’

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 144, the bill to outlaw the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places.

The bill was among the very last that he signed last night before the midnight deadline; I received the legislative update at 12:07 a.m. There was no signing message, and as far as I know, he never said a public word about this bill.

“The Governor has shown common sense and real courage by standing with law enforcement and victims of gun violence to make our communities safer,” said Dallas Stout, president of the California Brady Campaign Chapters. “By prohibiting the open carry of guns, we can now take our families to the park or out to eat without the worry of getting shot by some untrained, unscreened, self-appointed vigilante.”

Adnan Shahab of Fremont, president of Responsible Citizens of California, issued a statement expressing disappointment.

“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,” Shahab wrote. “Since no problem has ever existed that needs to be addressed or fixed, there was no reason for AB 144 in the first place.”

Shahab said his group will work with other gun-rights groups “to plot the best possible course of action moving forward.” He also noted AB 144 bans open carry of handguns but not of long guns: “Since the State Legislature and the Governor have chosen to attack the right to carry handguns, law-abiding citizens who wish to be able to protect themselves from violent criminals have no choice but to Open Carry long guns instead.”

California is behind the times, he insisted. “Most other states have been expanding the basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right to self defense for their electorate. It is time for our elected officials in California to stop eroding every law-abiding citizen’s Second Amendment Rights. Instead, our public servants should be working to firmly protect the basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right to self defense and take deliberate action toward expanding these critical civil rights for all law-abiding Californians.”

AB 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, 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.

The Assembly passed the bill in May on a 46-29 vote, and after gun-rights activists spent the summer leaning on state Senators to oppose the bill, the Senate approved it on a 21-18 vote Sept. 8; the Assembly then concurred in the Senate’s amendments Sept. 9 with a 48-30 vote, sending it to Brown.

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.

Supporters of this bill, including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California and various gun-control groups, 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 @ 8:58 A.M.: “I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing the importance of this public safety measure that will help reduce the threat to the public and to law enforcement,” Portantino said. “‘Open carry’ wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching criminals or solving crimes. Instead, when officers are called to investigate the display of a weapon on an ‘open carry’ proponent, it takes their attention away from where it’s needed and puts folks at unnecessary risk.”

“We worked closely with law enforcement on this bill – both the California Police Chiefs Association and Police Officers Research Association of California – because they felt strongly that “open carry” is not safe and that someone could get hurt or worse,” he added.

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.

  • Truthclubber

    “…The bill was among the very last that he signed last night before the midnight deadline; I received the legislative update at 12:07 a.m. There was no signing message, and as far as I know, he never said a public word about this bill….”


    Brown hopes this will not be noticed by the large numbers of moderates and independents WHO OWN HANDGUNS.


  • For Liberty

    He just elevated the open carry group from carrying handguns on their belts to bringing their long guns (rifles/shotguns) to the coffee shops.

    This was an unnecessary law that doesn’t make Californians any safer today than they were yesterday.

  • Truthclubber

    Some haiku for Governor Zenmaster:

    A sawed off shotgun.
    Able to handle deer slugs.
    Legal open carry.

  • Walter, Livermore

    It’s no longer ‘open carry’ of handguns… Now, it’s ‘All Out Carry’ of rifles and shotguns!

  • For Liberty

    Brown also signed AB499 which allows preteens and teens to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent. This law was encouraged by public health officials who claim that the law will keep up with new prevention treatments and help slow the spread of disease among minors, claiming that parents are unable to be responsible for the health of their own children. The law then shifts parental responsibility or in other words, strips their rights and freedom from the parents to the state government.

    Mr. Brown, What’s next? What other rights and freedoms can we transfer to the state of California that we’re not able to do or figure out for ourselves.

    In addition, Brown also signed AB131 also known as the CA Dream Act. This law allows, beginning in 2013, illegal immigrants accepted by state universities to receive assistance from Cal-Grants. The new law also makes students who are not legally in the country eligible for institutional grants while attending the University of California and California State University systems. And it permits them to obtain fee waivers in the community college system. This is all at the cost of legal tax paying citizens whose children will be competing to receive these same grants. American citizen students from other states desiring to attend a CA school will have no benefit.

    I guess this all sounds fair.

  • DJH

    I was happy Gov. Brown signed this law. This isn’t a second amendment issue, it’s a common sense one. We really don’t need citizens walking around with guns. Sometimes your friends look like your enemies. It can be hard to delineate between friend or foe and law enforcement does not need the extra burden of trying to decide if an open carry person is a threat.

  • John W

    Let the legal battle begin on open carry. If the gun rights advocates start showing up around town with their shotguns and such, it will backfire on them, so to speak. In the PR and legislative sense.

  • John W

    @For Liberty

    How does the law shift rights from parents to the state? It shifts the choice from the parents to the girls. In my book, a young girl’s right not to be exposed to preventable cervical cancer trumps parental rights. I doubt the law will have much effect, since vaccination requires three shots, which are very expensive. Like it or not, girls tend to become sexually active at a much younger age than in my day. Not allowing them to get vaccinated won’t change that. However, somebody did raise an interesting question during morning talk on KGO. If the law empowers a young girl to get vaccinated without parental permission, does it then also allow a girl to refuse if the parents want her to get vaccinated?

  • eureka

    too bad its not “…untrained, unscreened, self-appointed vigilante(s).” that we have been having trouble with… it’s the poorly trained, poorly screened, god complex granted police force that’s gunning people down.

  • Don

    The problem is that CA makes it very difficult for people to legally carry concealed. I look forward to the OC crowd gathering at the local Starbucks with their ARs slung over their shoulders

  • For Liberty

    John W.,

    You’re correct, AB499 shifts the choice from the parents to the children, thus removing any need for counsel and/or permission from the parents. But, how and by what circumstances will a child have to make such a choice? This law plain and simply, removes the rights of parents, insinuating that the parents are incapable of making the proper decisions for the health of their child, no matter how much choice the child has or doesn’t have. The decision then is left up to a child and the health official, with no counsel, direction, notice or consent of the parent. Without parental involvement, this law becomes a total dictation by the state when it comes to this public health concern. Without parental involvement, the burden of responsibility is then shifted from the parents to the state regarding this particular public health matter. The responsibility of whether or not a child receives this vaccine can now not be left with the parent and certainly not with the child, but now with the state. As the state will now carry such a burden of responsibility to vaccinate away this public health concern, I’d hate to be that young child in the doctor or nurses office having to make a choice without the consultation from mom or dad.

    In regards to the expense of the vaccination, I can only say that I believe the pharmaceutical companies who produce the vaccine applauded Brown’s signing of this bill. Just the fact of the law now removing the third party (the parent) in the vaccination of children, means the probability of increased profits.

  • John W

    For Liberty,

    We’re a bit off topic here discussing the HPV vaccine issue instead of guns. But what the heck. You are probably right about the role of Big Pharma (i.e., Merck) in pushing this legislation. But I seriously doubt they influenced Jerry Brown’s decision in the slightest. I’m generally not in favor of laws that weaken parental authority. However, there are some really horrible parents out there who have some pretty rigid views about morality and religion. In the case of HPV, we are talking life and death. It only takes one incident of unprotected sex with a guy who doesn’t even know he has the virus, and a girl can be condemned to cancer later in life. If a girl aged 12-18 wants the vaccine and her parents refuse, I say to hell with parental rights in this case. I view this the same way as a kid raised in a Christian Science family who wants medical treatment that the religion (or the parents’ interpretation of it) doesn’t allow. I’ve known some exceptionally fine Christian Scientists in all walks of life, but I wouldn’t allow parents in such a familiy to deny medical care to a minor who chooses a different path.