Gov. Jerry Brown outlaws open carrying of long guns in California cities
Californians will no longer be able to openly carry rifles and shotguns in cities under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill was responding to public demonstrations by gun owners who were showing up at coffee shops and other public places carrying long guns to demonstrate their right to bear arms.
The bill by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge) closes a loophole left when the state last year banned the open carrying of unloaded handguns in public.
"This shows an unequivocal commitment from law enforcement and state government to ensure the public safety of families in our neighborhoods and public places,'' Portantino said, adding it allows law enforcement to "focus on pressing duties free from the threat of an 'open carry' stop spiraling out of control or turning deadly." There are exceptions, including for military employees in parades and people at target ranges.
The new measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, was supported by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca because of concern that officers responding to citizens' calls might have difficulty telling peaceful demonstrators from armed criminals.
"Because of this existing loophole, it is a concern that some individuals will openly carry long guns in public, which represents a terrible public safety hazard," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for Baca.
The measure was introduced months before the mass shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, and a Wisconsin Sikh temple, but those tragedies provided a new urgency to legislators pushing the change.
Gun owners see the new law as an infringement on their rights.
"It’s an unfortunate addition to California law," said Gene Hoffman, chairman of the Calguns Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun owners. "What we are talking about is making it that much more confusing to own a firearm and stay out of jail in California."
Hoffman said the measure appears to violate free speech rights of those who want to openly carry guns to make a political point. "The 1st Amendment is at risk. What other devices can you not actually carry to make a statement?’’
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.