']'Open carry' threatened by proposed law
California is a "may issue" state. That means that people who want to carry a gun concealed on their persons may not do so unless told they may do so by their county sheriff or chief of police. California sheriffs usually do not want to give that permission, even though the citizen asking is mentally capable and law abiding.
This situation has given rise to what is known as the "open carry movement" in California, formed to bring attention to the discrimination in the permit process. Advocates in San Diego and the Bay Area have gained publicity for the movement by holstering their handguns (empty of ammunition according to the law) and gathering in public places. It is completely legal in California to carry an empty firearm on your person in public. It always has been.
To some lawmakers, carrying around an empty gun seems threatening. In a quick response to this perceived but non-threat, AB1934 was drafted to make it a crime to carry an empty firearm in plain view. The bill's author, Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, is quoted as saying, "What I'm concerned about is people, who have no training, can carry a gun for no other purpose than to make a public statement." She failed to say "empty" gun.
Making public statements is an American activity. The "open carry movement" is driven by the inequities and unfair withholding of concealed-carry weapon permits.
The intimidation that the lawmaker, or others, may feel is no reason to make another law. Imagined fears are not justification for punishing laws that threaten innocent citizens. "Fears" were addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s when the court ruled that people's "fears" were not justification to deny civil and constitutional rights.
Once California becomes a "shall issue" state, and all those who apply who are capable and law abiding are permitted to carry concealed weapons, the concern over empty guns carried in open view will fade.
We all know that the police cannot be on the spot immediately with every crime. Threatening citizens with making the right to bear arms a crime is contrary to our nation's history and unproductive for our future in California.
Sam Paredes is the executive director of Gun Owners of California.