California Bill Bans Open Carry of Handguns - Even Unloaded

The California State Senate on Sept. 8 approved legislation that would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public.

Assembly Bill 144, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, was approved 21-18, with three Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the measure. The bill now returns to the Assembly for consideration of amendments added in the upper house.

The bill contains a number of exceptions, including exemptions for peace officers, military gatherings, gun shows and hunting. It specifically targets the "open carry" movement, marked by gatherings of people displaying their firearms in public places to protest gun-control laws.

Sen. Kevin de Leon said the measure would stop the practice, which he said alarms the public and creates a "potentially dangerous" situation when law enforcement officials or members of the public are unsure whether an exposed gun is loaded or not.

"This is not the wild west," the Los Angeles Democrat said, adding, "How discomforting can it be if you walk into a restaurant, to Starbucks, to Mickey D's, wherever it is that you may go to, and all of a sudden you see someone walking around with a handgun, and you don't know, can't discern if they're a law enforcement agent."

No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, criticized the proposal for "further narrowing peoples' Second Amendment rights."

"The Second Amendment is not a loophole," LaMalfa said. Open carry "isn't a problem for anybody except for the gun grabbers that continually chip away and narrow our basic rights."

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