Bill introduced to ban open carry of handguns in California

What’s that you say? You didn’t even know open carry was legal in California? Why yes it is. The gun must be in clear view at all times and be unloaded. You may also legally carry ammo on a clip next to the holstered gun. You don’t need a license. (However, as one who lived in Los Angeles for many years, I wouldn’t think of doing it there, it’d be an invitation for LAPD to go Robocop on you.)

In a move either brave or foolhardy, State Assembly member Anthony Portantino has introduced a bill, AB 144, which would ban open carry in California. It’s a given he will be hearing from lots of concerned folks about this, most especially from pro-gun organizations and lobbyists. I hope he’s ready.

He says California law enforcement officers have told him they spend too much time investigating calls by people that someone is carrying a gun. This is a justifiable concern, but perhaps this occurs primarily because most Californians don’t know open carry is legal. In states like Arizona and Utah where open carry is more common and everyone knows what the law is, I’ve yet to hear police complaining about having to answer such calls. He also asks “Do you really need to be armed to buy a latte or a cheeseburger?” This seems, um, a loaded question to me. One answer is who knows? Another answer is that carrying a gun is a constitutionally protected right, or so some say.

Rather than venture into that minefield of controversy, let’s look at the states where open carry is legal. There are about twelve states that permit open carry of a loaded handgun and several more allow open carry of an unloaded gun, all without a permit (Gun laws are always in flux and exact counts of states are difficult). Most, but not all, of these states are in the West, with others being in the mid-Atlantic and the South. Vermont is an outlier. It is in New England and has practically no gun laws. Concealed carry of a loaded gun is legal without a license.

I’m not able, and neither is anyone else to my knowledge, to draw any conclusions in comparing laxity or strictness of guns laws in relation to the level of crime and gun violence. Lots of people on both sides of the issue have tried hard to prove this one way or the other and no one has been able to find any definitive correlation.

In 1969, members of the Black Panther Party, in a brilliant piece of political theatre, carried rifles legally into the state capitol building in Sacramento ostensibly in support of gun rights. This freaked out conservatives then in much the same way that gun-carrying Tea Party members alarm liberals now.

Sometimes, when people argue, the real issue is about something else. Perhaps the gun debate is really more about how much power the states and federal government should be allowed to wield. Assembly member Portantino is well-meaning and genuinely concerned. However, just maybe, carrying handguns is no big deal, and should be treated as such by everyone, and then we can all calm down.

(Crossposted from CAIVN in slightly modified form)


  1. “I’m not able, and neither is anyone else to my knowledge, to draw any conclusions in comparing laxity or strictness of guns laws in relation to the level of crime and gun violence. Lots of people on both sides of the issue have tried hard to prove this one way or the other and no one has been able to find any definitive correlation.”

    Patently false statement. Dr. John Lott has done a LOT of study in this area and has shown conclusively that in every case where the right to carry has been granted, crime rates drop whereas every place where they are infringed, they rise.

    • DJ, who comments and blogs here about gun ownership and violence levels, has said that numerous studies on this either contradict each other or are inconclusive. (BTW. He owns multiple weapons and strongly supports gun rights.)

  2. Why is this bill unconstitutional?

    The United States Supreme Court in McDonald v Chicago which applied District of Columbia v. Heller to ALL states and local jurisdictions. Heller held that we have the core right of self-defense, also mentioned in Article I section I of the California Constitution, and to carry a weapon for the purpose of self-defense; except in certain sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.

    In addition to all of the above, we have had two 9th Circuit Court decisions upholding our right to carry firearms in public; Peruta v San Diego and US v Vongxay

    The City of Los Angeles wants to implement its own ban which is unconstitutional under state law as well:

    1. Article XI section 7 of the California Constitution.
    2. The California Supreme Court in Action Apartment Association v City of Santa Monica
    3. Article I section I of the California Constitution
    4. Article III section I of the California Constitution

    You are correct that the LAPD will go “Robocop.” In short, they will murder you, film at 11.

    Which begs the question, “Is Los Angeles not bound by the US Constitution or the California Constitution?”

  3. Actually in most cases open carry was already permitted, and where the crime rate is low it remains permitted. Rising crime tends to promote gun restrictions. Statistically, there is no relationship between rates of gun ownership and rates of gun violence – it’s a flat line. More guns or fewer guns do not statistically predict either more or less gun crime, that is determined by other factors.

    Which leads to the suggestion that guns are not the issue. Bob’s observation is informative: in places where people fear each other, crime is higher and guns are considered scary. But in places where people do not fear each other, crime is low and guns are not considered a threat. Almost every household in my area has at least one firearm, yet crime is low and no one (including the cops) presumes that a gun will be used on people unless there’s an indication that the person carrying is threatening.

    Those who live in LA would no doubt consider ANY gun to be threatening. But that’s not true in a lot of other places. When I first moved here, I carried a revolver in plain sight into a store to have someone look at it – and no one noticed!! In LA they would have called SWAT.

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