California lawmakers are taking aim at a protest movement that encourages participants to show up at public places en masse with handguns strapped to their side.
The "Open Carry" movement sparked shock waves last year when about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, stood outside an Arizona convention center where President Barack Obama was speaking.
The California Assembly narrowly passed legislation Tuesday to prohibit the practice, which typically is meant to protest gun-control laws or the scarcity of concealed-weapons permits. It is legal if the guns are not loaded.
"We think it's an accident waiting to happen," Amanda Wilcox, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said of gun-toting protesters mixing with frightened citizens in public places.
Wilcox said that allowing firearms in public — recently such a demonstration occurred in downtown Sacramento — sends the wrong message to children.
"Kids are normally trained not to touch a gun, and it sends a very confusing message when they see a firearm in the holster of someone next to them in a Starbucks," said Wilcox, whose 19-year-old daughter was shot to death in a Nevada County rampage almost a decade ago.
But Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the legislation passed Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1934, is an attempt to stifle the constitutional right to bear arms.
"You just urinated on the Second Amendment, as far as I'm concerned," Paredes said outside Assembly chambers after the vote.
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said the bill violates free-speech rights, too, by targeting protesters.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on the bill.
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