Bill a response to complaints by local residents and tourists regarding open-carry advocates brandishing guns in pubilc places
By Miriam Raftery
June 2, 2010 (Sacramento) – The State Assembly has passed AB 1934, which would prohibit carrying unconcealed handguns. Currently law already bans openly carrying loaded handguns. AB 1934, authored by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego) would also outlaw carrying unloaded handguns. (Carrying concealed weapons, with a permit, would remain legal.)
Saldaña posted a video on her website showing that an unloaded gun can be loaded in just two seconds. “The support we’ve gained from the public, law-enforcement, the Legislature and local government demonstrates that this is a real concern for people,” Saldaña said. “They recognize this as a common sense measure that balances public safety and gun rights.”
The bill was introduced in response to the recent “open carry” movement which has encouraging gun-toting advocates to strap on holstered weapons and display them in public places. Open carry advocates claim the right is protected by the Constitution.
In Pacific Beach last year, around 60 armed open-carry demonstrators frightened tourists. Some Starbucks customers also lodged complaints when open carry advocates brought guns into coffee shops. In East County, the thought of people openly wielding guns at our near schools has sparked fears in a community that has already suffered two mass school shootings at Santana and Granite Hills.
When confronted with an armed person, law enforcement is currently restricted to confirming whether a firearm is loaded, Saldaña said. Officers cannot run a serial number to see if a gun is stolen or if the person carrying the gun is a felon restricted from carrying a weapon. “Law enforcement can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys with these kinds of restrictions,” Saldaña said. “Even if their instincts tell them something’s wrong, they have to return the gun.”
Open carry," unnecessarily subjects our officers and the public to tense encounters that have unforeseeable consequence,” an editorial by Emeryville police chief Ken James in the San Francisco Gate stated. “The police officer who approaches an "open carry" subject must rapidly assess the subject's behavior without knowing if the individual has a permit to carry a gun or a gun license. The officer knows only that he or she must detain the subject only long enough to determine whether the gun is unloaded.” James concluded, “An officer has more authority to check on whether a driver is legally driving a car than to stop an individual to verify if the individual has the right to carry a gun.”
The Brady Center has issued a statement indicating that "on May 9, an open carry advocate shot two men, one fatally, on a Milwaukee street." Then on May 15, it says, "a concealed carry permit holder pointed his gun and threatened a fellow parent at a kids soccer game." And on May 20, the group says, an Ohio man and his son shot into traffic with AK-47 assault rifles, killing two police officers, before being killed themselves in a shootout with authorities.
"These incidents show the costs, in death, injury, and fear, of allowing loaded guns in public places," the Brady statement quotes the center's president, Paul Helmke, as saying. The rhetorical difference between unloaded and loaded, when the gun is being carried in public, is negligible, the center notes, since an unloaded firearm can be made ready to go in seconds by anyone with a clip handy.
But www.OpenCarry.org, an advocacy group, argues that open carry should be allowed for self protection, as a visible deterrent to crime, and as civil protest of firearms laws that the group argues are unconstitutional. Open Carry further argues that the practice constitutes “firearms community diplomacy, to dispel the myth that only cops and criminals carry guns…”
Saldana’s bill would make openly carrying a handgun, loaded or unloaded, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill contains exceptios, such as display of a firearm by a peace officer, authorized military organization, firearm dealer, or licensed hunter while engaged in the sport.
The measure passed on a straight party line vote, with all Republicans voting against the measure and Democrats in support. Locally, Democrats Mary Salas, Marty Block and Saldaña voted in favor, while Republicans Joel Anderson, Nathan Fletcher, Martin Garrick, Diane Harkey, and Kevin Jeffries voted against the bill.
The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, applauded passage of the bill and urged the Governor to sign if it the bill wins approval from the Senate. “Gun enthusiasts can find a more socially acceptable way to assert their manhood. We recommend growing a mustache, or getting a biceps tattoo that does the hula when flexed,” the Times opined.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other advocates of open carry will now take their battle to the State Senate, where AB 1984 will be considered next.