Politics & Government

Limiting 'open carry' of guns on California lawmakers' agenda

California state lawmakers seeking to revive two controversial gun bills made progress Tuesday, as an Assembly committee approved proposals targeting the "open carry" protest movement and requiring records on long gun sales.

Assembly Bill 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. A number of circumstances and activities would be exempt from the ban, including some ceremonies, hunting and gun shows.

"Open carrying of weapons is something that belongs on a Hollywood movie set, not on Main Street or Starbucks," Portantino said in testimony to the Assembly Public Safety Committee. "You don't need a sidearm in order to buy a cheeseburger."

Lawmakers first tackled the issue last year in response to organized demonstrations of people brandishing firearms in public to protest gun-control laws, including a 2009 rally outside an Arizona convention center where President Barack Obama was speaking. An open carry ban introduced by then-Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, failed to clear both houses in its final form by last year's deadline for passing bills.

Portantino said the ongoing movement has "created an increase in problematic instances," alarming passers-by and draining law enforcement resources when officers are called to respond to reports of armed people.

Opponents countered that the ban would leave law-abiding citizens with no option for exercising their Second Amendment rights if they are also denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They said the open carry movement has not led to any altercations that would merit the ban.

"Show me any instances where there has been a problem where the person carrying the arms openly has been arrested for any reason. They don't have any," said Ed Worley of the National Rifle Association. "It makes people uncomfortable, but that's the nature of a free society."

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