Open Carry illegal in California on Jan 1. Lawsuit filed

Black Panthers. California State Capitol. 1967.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, open carry of an unloaded handgun will be illegal in California. What’s that you say? You didn’t even know it was legal? California AB 144 passed in October and was signed by Governor Brown. He did so saying he listens to California police chiefs who oppose open carry because they say it makes their job harder and alarms the public.

Well, about 40 states do allow some version of open carry and their law enforcement doesn’t seem overly stressed by it. Further, if open carry alarms the public, then perhaps the public is unaware of the laws. I do considerable travel in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Open carry is legal and relatively common in those states. The public and police are quite aware of the laws. It’s just not a big deal. Plus – and this infuriates proponents on both sides of the issue – there have been no conclusive studies that show that gun ownership and open carry either increases or decreases violent crime. Yes, there have been a multitude of studies, but many of them contradict each other.

What is a big deal to gun owners is the Second Amendment. They say it gives them to right to own and carry weapons without undue inference from the government. (I don’t think anyone seriously argues that private citizens should be allowed to own Stinger missiles. There are limits.) CalWatchdog quotes California lawmakers in rural areas who say open carry is increasingly essential, due to the meth labs and marijuana plantations. If you were out hiking and suddenly came across irrigation lines where there shouldn’t be any, maybe you’d want a weapon too.

Others say it makes no sense to walk into a deli, see someone carrying a gun, and wonder if they are law enforcement or a criminal. While the apprehension is understandable, again, this is probably because people don’t know what the law is. I have seen open carry in a Las Vegas deli. No one cared or was scared. And do the bad guys open carry or even care about the law?, who obviously has a dog in this race, quotes a San Bernardino Sheriff Sgt. who says “Gang members aren’t known to open carry.” Nor are drug cartel members.

A civil rights lawsuit has already been filed opposing the new law. Amusingly, the law has a gaping loophole which, while it bans open carry of handguns, does not ban open carry of unloaded rifles and shotguns. “Come Jan. 1, you will see us out there with unloaded rifles and shotguns,” says a gun rights advocate. While gun rights may seem a right-wing issue to some, the banning of open carry of loaded weapons in California was in response to the Black Panthers openly carrying loaded weapons in 1967.

California is an outlier when it comes to gun laws. Most states are becoming more permissive. Gun laws by state are highly confusing and ever-changing. Keeping up with all of them is practically a full-time job. One thing is for certain though. The battle over gun rights in California isn’t over. Expect a concerted effort to overturn the new gun law.


  1. I don’t know, call me old-school – grew up on The High Cascade huntin’ and fishin’, fightin and frackin’, and pretty much mindin’ my own damned business. Had a gun when I was eight, a pony at ten; was ridin’ line on a cattle ranch at fifteen, just me and a couple of horses, a couple of dogs, a bunch of cows and a whole lot of high desert sky. I never bought into the shoot the horse if it runs away on you: eyaw, your foot’s in the stirrup and your bouncing around on the ground probably getting stomped by the runaway horse’s hooves and you’re gonna’ pull a pistol (or rifle) and shoot the horse. Uh-huh, eyup. On the other hand, in that situation I would imagine a loaded firearm would be of infinite more value. Better still to shoot the rattlesnake before it spooks your horse. As i have.

    So I don’t get the point of open carrying an unloaded firearm. The deer/elk/bear/rattlesnake (or the horse run away with you) will be gone before you can load it, and if in a confrontation with an armed assailant you’ll most likely get shot trying to load it. So what’s the point? It’s a a boondoggle, a wasted effort.

    • It’s not like there are a lot of law enforcement around to check if your handgun is unloaded when you’re riding a horse in the high desert.

      Some states do allow loaded carry, I think.

      • Indeed, Utah is one. Anywhere, any time – guaranteed by the State Constitution. And Utah has one of the highest rates of gun ownership yet one of the lowest gun violence rates in the nation, while despite its draconian gun laws, California has one of the highest rates of gun violence. I don’t take that (as some do) to suggest that “an armed populace makes for a polite society.” Rather, I note it to show the irrelevance of gun laws in affecting the rate of gun crime.

        I do, however, agree with Ten Bears: an unloaded gun is about as useful as an unloaded fire extinguisher. It’s fine, as long as you never need it.

        I once had a Californian tell me that when he walked into a bank and saw someone carrying a firearm, he didn’t want to be in fear that the person was about to rob the bank. To those of us who grew up with guns, that makes as much sense as fearing that the guy with the Bic lighter might be about to commit arson. (I once walked into our local ranch store carrying a revolver in my hand, and no one even looked twice!) Having lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, I do understand the fear people have of their fellow humans. Down there, anyone you don’t know (which is about 10 million people) could be a threat. Whereas up here, we assume the person you just met is carrying (because statistically they probably are), but have no reason to expect that they will use their firearm to shoot us. Why would they? I was once scolded for riding my dirt bike on private property by a woman in a pickup who I am 98% certain had a handgun on the seat next to her. But I had no fear because I didn’t give her any reason to shoot me. For her to have done so would be nonsensical.

        All of which suggests that it’s not guns that are the problem, but urbanism. Let’s outlaw cities! lol

        • Yet some rural areas can be quite violent too. OTOH, I think males in Switzerland are required to own rifles and their gun violence is very low.

  2. I love guns and believe deeply in the 2nd amendment, but open carry is fucking stupid. Why in the hell would you want to have a unloaded gun on you…… EVER! If you want to look cool buy a fucking bad ass car, don’t make the job of law enforcement officers harder than it needs to be. That would be wonderful if you saw a horrible crime taking place and couldn’t do a dam bit of good to help…. Oh wait you could pretend you have the ability to stop that murder or rape, and get your own ass shot off. It’s a useless and dangerous liability for everyone involved just so you can be aa rebel and be different. Move to fucking Arizona!

  3. @Trigger, A lot of people open carry in California because its the ONLY way for the average(non famous, rich, connected etc) person to carry a firearm for self defense. Is it as good as carrying loaded? Hell no. No one is saying that. The fact is that many of these open carriers can draw, load and fire in 2.0 seconds or less. I know there are people with CCWs who cant draw and fire faster than that. Its not about trying to look cool. Its about protection and education. You can either carry and phone and watch a rape take place as you “hope” police will arrive in time or draw and load in less than 2.0 seconds. The choice seems pretty obvious to me. Nobody wants to carry an unloaded gun but its the only way for now. As far as open carry making the jobs of LEOs more difficult….are you kidding? They are not required to do a single thing. Plenty of officers just wave, its the choice of the officer if he wants to waste his time harassing law abiding citizens. If you knew anything you would know that its the police that respond with 10 officers for a few open carriers. They are the ones calling the shots. They know the weapons are unloaded, they know the people are obviously law abiding but they preform the un constitutional E check because its the only way they can harass open carriers. Get your facts straight. Find me a single death or injury related to open carry. You wont find one.

  4. With one hundred and sixteen (116) distinct exemptions it would behoove law enforcement to make sure they know the law(AB 144) before they try and take action against any law abiding open carry advocate.
    It is not up to us to prove we are innocent, it is up to them to prove we are not. If not, each and every false arrest could lead into a Federal Civil Rights violation.
    We will be working with our local law enforcement to ensure that they are placed on notice of the actual provisions of AB 144 so that they cannot claim a lack of knowledge of the law as an excuse for false arrests, unlawful seizures, or even injuries or deaths.
    It is our hope that all law enforcement will be willing to work along side us in this.

  5. The reason people unloaded open carry, is 1) because a law abiding citizen cannot get a permit to carry concealed, not even despite that the police know the criminals, gang members, and terrorists have guns, they still actually make it harder for law abiding citizens to be armed than the bad guys for political reasons, and 2) to try to wash away the irrational fear of guns created by the media and the government

  6. It was reported today that witnesses rescued two children in Utah after a car went off an embankment into a frigid river. One of the rescuers shot out the passenger side window with a handgun, then cut the seat belts with a knife. Up here, that’s not news, but was mentioned in the details. I bet the family is grateful today for the right to bear arms!

  7. I think this new law is utter garbage all this law is doing is preventing is law abiding citizens like myself from protecting areself when not home i live in some pretty bad neighborhoods where i have just recent lost some friends and had another get shot over nothing people who do these gun related crimes are not going to carry there firearms in a holster in plain site so why as a legal gun owner should i have to leave my gun at home when just the seeing i have a gun could detur someone from possibly shooting, or robbing me. Yes general pubic seeing that maybe alittle scared to see it unless it could prevent them getting robed or hurt then i bet they would be all for it there isnt a whole lot of negitive to this i can guarantee if you saw someone walking down the street with a gun in a holster it is registered to that person (or someone they know) because like i said gang members and drug dealers are not going to openly show there weapon so everyone can see because it is stolen

  8. shane,

    If you used punctuation and capitalization I could understand you, and maybe even agree with you.


  9. In My opinion california goverment is in fear of a armed open carry gun club ,it all started with starbucs gun afficionados scaring the crap of customers and then chalenging the police on open carry rules! Im leaving calif inthe next year

  10. If there were real men in sacramento running the goverment we wouldnot have our 2nd adm rights infringed upon

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