REGION: Sheriff candidates oppose 'open carry' ban
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The two candidates sparring for the Riverside County sheriff post agree on one thing: Sacramento has better things to do than to ban people from carrying clearly visible handguns in public.
But that's exactly what a bill headed for a hearing Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee would do. The bill's author, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego, is taking aim at a practice that is lawful in California as long as weapons are unloaded.
However, similar legislation has been shot down in recent years.
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Saldana said it would be better if only law enforcement officers were permitted to publicly display firearms. Her Assembly Bill 1934 would make it illegal for everyone else to carry unloaded, exposed handguns in public places and on the street, both in cities and in unincorporated areas.
A violation would be a misdemeanor.
But the sheriff candidates say the proposal is unnecessary.
"I'm appalled," said Frank Robles of Riverside, a retired chief deputy with the Sheriff's Department.
"With all of the serious problems facing our politicians in Sacramento right now ---- the budget, not enough jails ... drugs, gangs, illegal immigration ---- and the best our politicians in Sacramento, the least this politician in Sacramento can do with her time and resources and money is come up with another ineffective law on gun control?
" Robles said.
Sheriff Stan Sniff, Robles' opponent in the June 8 primary, said the legislation seems an "odd thing" to focus on when "they've got big fish to fry up there in getting their budget balanced."
Sniff, in a telephone interview Thursday, said he is more concerned about what he can't see than what he can.
"For most of us in law enforcement, the concealed carry that is unlawful is more of a direct threat," he said. "And the display of a firearm in a threatening manner is already, and has been for quite some time, against the law."
Under state law, only a small
number of people who have obtained permits from a sheriff or police chief may carry around a hidden weapon. Sniff has said he is very cautious about whom he issues permits to. Robles has said he would expand the availability of permits.
As for the legislation to ban openly carrying weapons, Robles said the author is setting her sights on a problem that doesn't exist.
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Sniff added that the practice of openly carrying weapons already is prohibited around courts and schools, and some cities have ordinances that ban it in other areas such as parks.
"We rarely get these types of firearms calls ---- open carry, unloaded," he said. "Most of our 'person with a gun' calls are involving fights, disturbances, robberies, assaults with a deadly weapon and other crimes of violence."
Robles maintained that Saldana's bill wouldn't make society any safer from violent crimes
, were it to become law.
But he said it might lead to still more restrictions.
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