California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill AB 144 into law on Sunday, October 8, 2011 which bans the unloaded open carry (UOC) of handguns, according to reports published on Monday, October 10, 2011 by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CBS News, the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, and other news sources.
The legislation, which will take effect on January 1, 2012 carries with it a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison. It exempts law enforcement officers, persons who have been issued concealed weapons permits by local county sheriffs, and those selling unloaded weapons at gun shows.
With the passage of the bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) and supported by many law enforcement groups, including the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) which represents the state’s 336 municipal police chiefs, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), California becomes the fifth state to impose such a restriction on unloaded open carry of side arms.
The attached video clip contains a discussion of Unloaded Open Carry sponsored by the Commonwealth Club of California. There is also a slide show included in this report.
Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas currently have such a ban in effect. There are some 33 other states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Louisiana and Colorado, that do not prohibit open carry. Twelve states, including South Carolina, Tennessee, Minnesota and Massachusetts require permits for open carry of unloaded handguns.
There are currently three other states, Alaska, Arizona and Vermont, which allow the carrying of concealed weapons without requiring a permit.
Opponents of the bill are outraged by what they consider an infringement of the Second Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
Such organizations as Contra Costa Open Carry have vowed to escalate their protest by displaying unloaded long rifles in public, saying “If the liberals are scared of seeing a law abiding citizen carrying an unloaded handgun in a belt holster, they had better get used to seeing these same law abiding citizens carrying their rifles and shotguns.”
Another group supporting UOC, Responsible Citizens of California called attention to legal precedents, saying “The right to carry a firearm for personal protection is a basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right that is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, confirmed by the US Supreme Court’s twin landmark rulings in both Heller (District of Columbia v. Heller) and McDonald (McDonald v. Chicago), and Unloaded Open Carry was cited as an important right in California by two federal judges in recent court decisions.”
Republican lawmakers have also voiced their opposition, along with the National Rifle Association (NRA), and Dave Workman, a senior editor of Gun Week magazine.
Those favoring the ban, including members of law enforcement and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claim that it will cut down on incidents in which police confront those carrying handguns and must assume that such weapons may be loaded.
According to Dallas Stout, president of the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “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.”
That may be wishful thinking as AB 144 will be impacting constitutional proponents of Unloaded Open Carry while those on the fringes of society have never been deterred by legislative restrictions.
Still, the author of the legislation, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino is grateful to the Governor for signing his measure into law.
Assemblyman Portantino issued a statement, saying “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.”
Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly sees things differently. He called the bill an “unconstitutional assault on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
The NRA is considered whether or not to challenge the legislation in the courts. Like other hot button issues, the federal judiciary may eventually have the last word in this matter.
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