Senate makes openly carrying gun a crime
The state Senate acted Thursday to prohibit California handgun owners from openly carrying their weapons in public, siding with law enforcement officials who say it wastes their time responding to false alarms of armed suspects and creates a risk of confrontation.
Current law allows the open carrying of unloaded handguns in public, and many activists have exercised their right by showing up in large numbers at their local Starbucks or other public places, wearing their firearm in a holster. Sen. Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) said there is no reason for that to happen in 2011.
"This is not the wild west," DeLeon said during the floor debate. "How discomforting can it be if you walk into a restaurant, a Starbucks, a Mickey D’s and all of a sudden you see someone with a handgun?"
But Republican lawmakers said the proposal would infringe on their constitutional rights. "Don’t turn law-abiding citizens into criminals," said Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego). "The more we chip away at our ability to protect ourselves, it’s undermining our freedoms."
Assemblyman Antony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said he introduced the bill at the request of police chiefs and sheriffs who are concerned about the activity.
“They are tied up dealing with calls from the public about gun-toting men and women in the coffee shop,’’ Portantino said. “As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”
However, Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) said 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 said of AB 144. "It's unnecessary."
The vote in the Senate was 21 to 12, with Democrat Roderick Wright voting with the Republicans against the bill.
It was previously approved by the Assembly, but goes back there now for action on minor amendments. However, it is uncertain whether the bill will reach the governor. The bill's author, Portantino, has been locked in a bitter feud in recent weeks with Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) over a budget vote. If the speaker does not allow the bill to the floor in the last 24 hours of the legislative session, it dies.
-Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York in Sacramento