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California legislation taking on open carry gun rights

by Chris Hinyub, published

California lawmakers are pushing a bill that would criminalize the open-carrying of firearms in public places, with a few exceptions. The legislation, authored by Democratic assemblywoman Lori Saldana of San Diego, is designed to relegate the open carrying of weapons to “trained” professionals.

Opponents argue that their only lawful means of possessing a firearm, along with their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, are under unprecedented attack by the proposed amendment to the state's penal code.

Under current law, it is generally legal to possess a firearm in the state of California as long as the weapon is holstered and not loaded. Restrictions have been imposed around school zones. This could all change if Saldana's bill makes it to the Assembly floor. "What I'm concerned about is people who have no training can carry a gun for no other purpose than to make a public statement," said Saldana.

In a 5 to 2 vote last week, the Democrat-controlled Committee on Public Safety approved the measure. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the Assemly Committee's Chairman, is a staunch supporter of the bill. "Whether a gun is loaded or not, it's still an act of intimidation and bullying," Ammiano said in a public statement.

Emeryville Police Chief Ken James agrees with Ammiano, stating,”Officers are taught from day one in the academy that guns are a threat... This open carry places officers in a position between a rock and a hard spot.” The California Police Chiefs Association is sponsoring the bill.

The timing of the legislation has coincided with a wave of open carry advocacy rallies across the state. Leading the way has been the Bay Area Open Carry Movement, who describe themselves on their Facebook page as “a network of liberty minded individuals that support the Right to Bear Arms in our daily lives.” They say they are not an organized group, but rather, an individual rights movement.

It seems the sight of so many law abiding citizens exercising their second amendment right in one place has raised concerns amongst policy enforcement personnel and a quite a few uninjured parties.

“In all of the open carry events in California, there has been no violence on either the side of the police or public so what is the real problem?” said Tom Laye in an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune. Laye, a firearms instructor from San Jose, added that untrained and unlicensed motorists pose more of a threat than gun owners.

One blogger at points out:

      ..while open carry advocates have urged their legislators to make concealed carry and other laws to put those who are scared by the sight of an openly-toted, unloaded firearm at ease, responses from the Assembly have been more reactionary than pro-gun advocates expected...The bill appears to stem from paranoia and frightened assumptions, nothing more.

The author continues with an anecdote to highlight the fear-based angle from which this particular piece of legislation is gathering its momentum.

      Saldana, at a recent news conference, displayed video of citizens loading firearms within seconds. Such video was used to show how quickly one can bring an unloaded firearm into a ready-to-use condition, a rather contradicting piece from the politician who claims independent citizens “have no training.” The application of such skills and training for the greater good, for personal safety and public safety, seems to be irrelevant when the Assembly only considers what someone malicious might do.

Proponents seem to think that concealing one's firearm is safer for police (who will hold a monopoly on open carry privileges) and for society at large. But opponents see open carrying as their only viable option for weapon possession.

The fact is, California is a "May-Issue" State for concealed carry weapon permitting. Open carry advocates claim the permits are all but impossible to obtain. When Sheriffs are granted sole discretionary authority to arm or disarm a populace, it appears that who you are doesn't allow you to carry a weapon for self-defense, it's who you know.

What's most interesting is that the legislation, AB 1934, as it now stands, won't do away with open carrying. The convoluted language of the bill, as amended by Saldana, seems to reclassify the act of carrying handguns in belt holsters as concealed carrying. At the same time it would become a misdemeanor to “openly carry an unloaded handgun on the person in specified public areas.”

Does this mean permitted individuals are prohibited from open carrying? How lawmakers and/or the courts want to work out that contradiction is beyond me.

Opponents wonder why the lawful carrying of a sidearm is all of a sudden a “public safety issue”. It's possible that this is simply knee-jerk legislation to a non-problem harped upon by an awestruck news media who were largely unaware of the “liberality” of California's gun laws.

Its also possible that anti-gun advocates are bucking to set state precedent in front of what will surely be a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme court in regards to 2nd Amendment rights. In just a few short months, the high court will issue its verdict in the case of McDonald v the City of Chicago.

The case should draw more attention than Heller v D.C.. which focused solely on the universal extension of weapon licensing privilege. McDonald attempts to overturn state permitting altogether, providing 2nd Amendment protection for every state citizen.

AB 1934 has been re-referred to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations where it currently resides.

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