Open Carry Ban Heads to Governor
By Assemblymember Anthony Portantino
Finally, the ban on the open carrying of unloaded handguns is on the Governor’s desk. This bill is both necessary and urgently needed. Imagine walking into your local coffee shop and running into a man or woman carrying a semi-automatic pistol. Or, imagine getting out of your car, family in tow, and three armed men are walking through the parking lot. Would you call the police or would you get back in your car and go home?
If you called the police, you’d be like many other Californians who beckon law enforcement and report the proliferation of gun-toters on Main Street, California. When the police officers arrive, they have to approach every public display of weapons as if those guns were loaded. In fact, most gun owners themselves are taught to treat every weapon as if it were loaded as a pure safety precaution. Certainly, the police officer on the street is trained no differently.
In California, we have laws to register guns and a license is needed to carry a concealed weapon. The open carry loophole allows modern-day cowboys to walk around carrying a gun on one hip and bullets or clips on the other. The California Police Chiefs Association and rank and file law enforcement believe that it’s only a matter of time before one of these unnecessary police stops turns ugly and someone gets hurt, or worse. I agree. That’s why I authored AB 144 to ban the open carry of unloaded weapons.
During these very tough economic times, law enforcement should not be wasting its time and attention on unnecessary confrontations with gun packing citizens on Main Street, California. The nearby family who called the police or who are sitting at the restaurant should be able to conduct their activities without the fear that one of these police calls might go violent. It is important to consider that AB 144 was drafted at the request of law enforcement to avoid the accidental or purposeful discharge of a weapon during one of the many “open carry” investigations. AB 144 passed the Senate on Thursday, the Assembly on Friday, and is now awaiting action from Governor Brown.
Gun owners who support California’s open carry are hoping to draw attention to what they see as the Constitutional guarantee to bear arms. Because California law prohibits openly carried guns from being loaded, open carry has come to symbolize the fight for Second Amendment Rights. The Second Amendment gives gun owners the right to defend their homes and property, not to put our public safety officers and families on Main Street in harm’s way.
While AB 144 was working through the system, the California Brady Campaign, which supports AB 144, began calling on all restaurant owners to establish a gun-free dining policy to protect their customers and employees. As they put it, “families should be able to dine in peace without being subjected to second-hand crossfire”. If AB 144 is signed into law, this would be unnecessary as unlicensed pistol packers would now be facing a $1,000 fine.
Another disturbing part of the open carry movement is the use of weapons as a political statement and for political purposes. It seems to me that the last thing we need in politics are weapons. Political discourse is about ideas and passionate and robust debate. It is not, and should not, be a formula for intimidation and violence. For my own brand of politics, I will stand up to my own party leaders if I think they are wrong and I will propose sensible gun laws at a time when many in politics find gun regulation too hot to handle.
Unfortunately, in their efforts to discourage me, the open carry activists have peppered my home phone and Facebook with nasty comments since I introduced AB 144. There is even a wanted poster on the Internet with my photo front and center. The heightened rhetoric of the open carry debate will not deter me from doing my job: to see that California’s citizens are protected and Main Street, California is safe for families and law enforcement.
It is certainly appropriate for folks to join me in asking the Governor to sign AB 144. Governor Brown can be reached at (916) 445-2841 or www.gov.ca.gov. Don’t hesitate to share your views.
Assemblymember Anthony Portantino was elected to serve the 44th Assembly District in November, 2006.