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California lawmakers approve ban on open carry of rifles, shotguns

August 29, 2012 |  1:13 pm

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The state Assembly on Wednesday voted final legislative approval to a ban on carrying unloaded rifles  and shotguns openly in public in California cities, with supporters citing recent mass shootings in other states and concern by police officers.

The Assembly voted 43-30 to send the legislation to  Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said he owns three firearms but has not yet taken a public position on the bill.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) introduced the measure as a follow-up to a bill signed last year by Brown that prohibited people from openly carrying unloaded handguns in public. Some have carried guns in public in a demonstration of a right to bear firearms.

The new measure makes it a misdemeanor, subject to jail time and fines, to openly carry unloaded long guns in incorporated cities. It was backed by law enforcement officials including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

"The more guns we have on our streets, whether visible or not, the potential for tragedy increases exponentially," Beck said. "I am in full support of repealing the open carry laws."

In arguing for the bill, other supporters cited mass shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, a Milwaukee Sikh temple and one in Tuscon that killed six and seriously injured a congresswoman.

Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) said having shotguns carried in public makes it harder for the police "to protect our 1st Amendment rights to take our family to a theater, to worship, to see our elected officials."

Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) noted the bill was introduced months before a gunman  opened fire in the Aurora theater, killing 12 and injuring 58. But, he added, "If this law was in place, maybe [shooting suspect] James Holmes might have been discovered. Police officers could question why this person has a gun near a theater."

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) objected to the reference to the Aurora theater shooting. "They died there because of loaded weapons," Halderman said. "That has absolutely nothing to do with what we are doing today."

Assemblyman Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale), a former LAPD officer, said AB 1527 is unnecessary. "We haven't seen any police reports from these people because they are law-abiding citizens," Knight said. "For law-abiding citizens who respect the law, we shouldn’t attack them from Sacramento.’’

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Gun enthusiasts look at various firearms on the floor at the National Rifle Assn.  gathering in St. Louis in April. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP

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