‘Open carry’ ban bill could pass later today

State Senate Democrats have been scrambling to get enough votes to pass a bill to criminalize the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places.

open carryAB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, came up for a floor vote yesterday but fell short of the 21 votes it needed to pass, so it was put on call and brought back up several times through the day – falling one vote short at yesterday’s end, but winning a unanimous vote to reconsider it today.

Adnan Shahab of Fremont, the Republican nominee for the 20th Assembly District seat and an open-carry activist, was in Sacramento watching the votes all day yesterday. He tells me that after yesterday’s session ended, state Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, acceded to pressure to change her vote from “nay” to “aye,” setting the bill up for potential passage later today – possibly much later today, as the state Senate might tackle competing state budget proposals first.

As Shahab and other activists organize calls and faxes to Ducheny’s office, other state Senators are feeling the heat well. Walter Stanley of Livermore, for example, yesterday was organizing “fax bombs” targeting the offices of state Senators Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, to try to convince them to vote against the bill.

The Assembly passed AB 1934 on a 46-30 vote June 1.

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.

Advocates of Saldana’s 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 who must check to ensure the guns aren’t loaded in accordance with state law.

UPDATE @ 6:18 P.M.: The bill was called just before 6 p.m. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, acting as the bill’s Senate floor manager, called it “a number one priority for the California Police Chiefs (Association)” and called open carry “a burden on public safety.” The vote was 11 in favor, 10 opposed, with a lot of absentees; DeSaulnier put the bill back on call, so again we wait…

UPDATE @ 9:45 P.M.: Shahab posted this Facebook update a few minutes ago: “Senator DeSaulnier and Assemblymember DeLeon are now pressuring Ducheny to vote for AB 1934. Call Ducheny’s office.”

UPDATE @ 11:30 P.M.: The state Senate has passed AB 1934 on a 21-16 vote; Ducheny voted yes.


East Bay police chief calls for open-carry ban

An East Bay police chief will be in Sacramento on Wednesday to advocate for a bill that would crack down on the “open carry” movement, in which gun enthusiasts say they’re exercise their Second Amendment rights and protecting their personal safety by carrying unloaded firearms in plain sight in public places.

Lori SaldanaEmeryville Police Chief Ken James said he’ll be representing the California Police Chiefs Association, which has thrown its support behind AB 1934, the bill being unveiled this week by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego. Saldaña amended the bill last week so that it would, subject to exceptions, make it a misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded handgun in specified public areas. Open-carry advocates say it’s a further abridgment of their Constitituonal rights.

Open carry has been an issue here in the East Bay and across California for several months now; some businesses have adopted policies barring customers from bringing firearms inside.

Chief Ken JamesJames said his concerns about the open-carry movement are twofold. “One is officer safety – this puts an officer between a rock and hard spot. Do we treat the gun as ‘Oh, it’s just an open carry’ or do we treat it as were trained to do from day one at the academy that it’s possibly a danger?”

The other is an issue of public safety, he said. “If the assumption is being made that the guns aren’t loaded … and if I see you walking down the street with that nice handgun … and I have my loaded gun and I decide to take your unloaded gun from you, I have the advantage. It’s an open target for people to be robbed of their unloaded handguns.”

“All the polls I’ve seen, the average citizen is uneasy seeing a gun. We have always in Emeryville (Police Department) had a policy that when you are not in uniform, you do not expose your weapon, simply because people don’t feel comfortable seeing them,” he said, noting plainclothes officers and detectives must ensure they’re wearing something over their sidearms even on the hottest days.

He said the California Police Chiefs Association did a statewide survey to gauge its members’ concern about the open-carry movement, and what the best approach would be to address that concern. One possibility was a statewide ban. Another was local choice and control by city or county ordinance, but James said “that creates a lot of issues for the poor citizen who needs to know 58 counties and more than 500 municipalities that all might have something different.”

A third option was changing state law to give officers more authority to check on weapons and the people who carry them. James said all an officer can do right now is demand to see whether the gun is unloaded; the officer can’t ask for ID to see if the person is legally allowed to have the weapon (convicted felons and mentally ill people are forbidden from carrying, for example) and can’t run the gun’s serial number to see if it has been stolen from its rightful owner.

“By far, the survey of membership was ‘ban it completely.’ It just makes it simpler,” James said.

Open-carry advocates clearly disagree. As Walter Stanley of Livermore told my colleagues a few months ago, when everyone carries a gun, misreading situations is less likely: “We want not just police and criminals to be carrying guns, but law-abiding citizens as well. … An armed society is a polite society.”


Analyst projects massive state budget shortfalls

The nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office, in a report issued today, issued a bleak outlook for the state budget with projections of a $27.8 billion shortfall in the next 20 months.

This will almost certainly test the mettle of the California Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the coming months as they struggle to find a way through this economic mess.

Click here to watch LAO analyst Mac Taylor’s comments.

Here’s what the LAO said:

“We concur with the administration’s assessment that the state’s struggling economy signals a major reduction in expected revenues. Combined with rising state expenses, we project that the state will need $27.8 billion in budget solutions over the next 20 months. The state’s revenue collapse is so dramatic and the underlying economic factors are so weak that we forecast huge budget shortfalls through 2013­14 absent corrective action. From 2010­11 through 2013­14, we project annual shortfalls that are consistently in the range of $22 billion.”

Click on this link for the full report: http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/PubDetails.aspx?id=1893


What’s good for roads may be good for schools

In legislation modeled after California’s popular transportation half-cent sales tax programs, state Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, has introduced a bill that would let school districts into the action.

SB 1430 would permit two or more contiguous local school districts (K-12) within a county to form an education finance district and ask voters to tax themselves for a specific set of projects and programs. Potential taxes include sales, telephone or other utilities, parcel taxes or vehicle license fees.

The idea is similar to the half-cent transportation sales tax that voters have repeatedly embraced in Contra Costa and Alameda counties and elsewhere. The major difference is that transportation plans require two-thirds voter approval; this one calls for a simple majority.

Today, individual school districts can ask voters for parcel tax money but it requires two-thirds voter approval and bonds require 55 percent. (Statement corrected at 9:02 p.m. on 2/28/08.)

While voters generally dislike tax increases, they have been persuaded over the years to pass local measures earmarked for local projects and programs. Nearly half of California’s public investment in transportation now comes from local sales taxes and tolls.

“School districts could join together in a program that provides local accountability,” Torlakson said in an interview in his Sacramento office on Wednesday.

On the other hand, transportation interests may resist opening the door to education — always a high priority with voters — in what has been a relatively successful if hard-fought source of cash for road expansions, pothole money and public transit service.

What are the chances this bill will ever be signed into law?

It’s hard to say. The Legislature will be preoccupied for months as it copes with a gaping budget deficit.

But Torlakson chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and after eight years in the Senate and four in the Assembly, he has many friends. Known for his persistence, he could also keep trying if he is successful in his planned 2010 election for state superintendent of schools.


Internet stalking bill wins committee vote

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, that would make on-line harassment a misdemeanor passed in the Public Safety Committee today 5-0.

“We, as legislators, must write laws with one eye on the present, and one for the future,” Houston said in a prepared release. “Currently, California state law does not recognize this growing area of concern. California is always at the cutting edge of technological advancement; we need laws to keep up with the technology.”

Here’s the partial text of Houston’s press release:

AB 919 would make it a misdemeanor to use the Internet to intentionally incite a third person to cause fear, harass or harm an individual.

At the committee hearing, victims shared their stories of how these activities have hurt them. Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Dodie Katague also testified in strong support of the bill, noting that it would provide him and all law enforcement officials a powerful tool to go after these crimes.

AB 919 will be heard next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


San Francisco lawmaker moves to limit use of city’s name

Memo to San Francisco 49ers: We can’t stop you from going but don’t forget to leave the name behind.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, just dropped this press release:


SACRAMENTO —Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced today that he is looking into introducing state legislation that would prohibit a professional sports franchise that is not headquartered or does not play its games in the City & County of San Francisco from using the name “San Francisco” in its name, unless the Board of Supervisors and Mayor specifically authorize it to do so.

“The name San Francisco has cachet all over the world as a number one destination spot,” stated Assemblyman Mark Leno, who represents the eastern portion of San Francisco in the State Assembly, including the area where Monster Park is currently located. “I don’t think San
Francisco’s name should automatically be able to be used by a franchise that is not located in
the City,” he said.

The idea comes in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers owners’ surprise decision to break off
talks about the construction of a new stadium in San Francisco, which also potentially imperils
the City’s bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. After further research, the bill would be
introduced in the next legislative session, which begins in December.