By Josh Richman
Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 11:56 am in gun control.
The “open carry” debate is hot again in Contra Costa County with a demonstration tonight at the Sun Valley Mall in Concord, but a new law could make this one of the movement’s last public gasps for a while.
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. The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown agreed: AB 144, a new law taking effect Jan. 1, will prohibit open carry of handguns, although open carriers have vowed to sue.
Concord police drew their ire last week, when two open carriers dining at the mall’s Johnny Rockets burger restaurant were confronted by several police officers and detained for about 20 minutes while police checked their names, their guns’ serial numbers and so on. Tonight’s event at BJ’s was intended to “educate the department” about open-carry rights.
Gun-control advocates got wind of this and decided to do a little educating of their own; the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence started working the phones.
Karen Arntzen, 58, of Pleasant Hill, the group’s services and advocacy coordinator, sent out an e-mail yesterday morning announcing that BJ’s “has announced a Gun-free Dining Policy and will not allow guns on the premises at any time. Manager Mike Gatto called the CA Brady Campaign to say he is trying to let the Open Carriers know ahead of time so they will not show up at the restaurant as planned on Dec. 14th.”
But, Arntzen noted, “Sun Valley Mall does NOT have a Gun-free Policy. The CA Brady Campaign has urged Security Manager Michael Fenley to implement a NO Weapons policy on Mall property for the safety of shoppers and employees.”
Alany Helmantoler, 38, of Concord is organizing tonight’s event and says the show must go on.
“We fully expected this type of thing occurs which is why we were meeting in front of BJ’s. We will guide people at the location,” she said in an e-mail late last night.
“The Brady Campaign has a history of terrorizing and scaring businesses to what is essentially a non-issue. This harassment of businesses will be addressed through their investors,” Helmantoler added. “AB 144 has limited enforcement abilities and is a nightmare for law enforcement agencies that are already suffering from cuts. The confusion over exemptions will create a whole new gamut of issues unintended.”