California Senate Votes to Ban Open Carry

Last Thursday, the California state Senate approved legislation (Assembly Bill 144) to make it a misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. 

The bill was introduced by assemblyman Anthony Portanitino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) who claimed the impetus for the legislation was a growing concern amongst local law enforcement authorities regarding open carry demonstrations as potential sources for trouble.  

“They are tied up dealing with calls from the public about gun-toting men and women in the coffee shop,’’ Portantino told the LA Times. “As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”

Democratic Sen. Kevin de León added, “This is not the wild west.”  And then he asked the following question, “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?”

However, Republican Senators weighed in on the new measure, Sen. Doug LaMalfa, (R-Richvale) told the Times, “The Second Amendment is not a loophole,” adding that open carry is “isn’t a problem for anybody except for the gun grabbers that continually chip away and narrow our basic rights.”

Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) also criticized the bill.  He told the Times that he has “never received a complaint from a constituent about people carrying guns openly, and many feel they need the protection.”

“This, in my mind, is just over the top,” Gaines continued.  “It’s unnecessary.”

The bill includes several exceptions including: exemptions for peace officers, military personnel attending military functions, individuals attending a gun show and licensed hunters while hunting. 

It passed by a vote of 21-12.   No Republicans voted for the measure. 

As for the status of the bill, it has returned to the Assembly for the consideration of minor amendments.  However the fate of the bill is uncertain as political infighting between the Assembly Speaker and the bill’s author over budget issues has lead the Assembly Speaker to hold up the legislative process.  The LA Times reported that if the speaker “does not allow the bill to the floor in the last 24 hours of the legislative session, it dies.”  If it does make it through, then it ends up on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.