The following is an Op Ed piece by John Pierce on AB1934. John Pierce is the Minneapolis Gun Rights Examiner.
Bio: John Pierce, cofounder ofOpenCarry.org, is a third-year law student at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., and holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
SALDANA TO CITIZENS: EAT CAKE
To support her crusade to ban the open carry of handguns, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D – San Diego) has borrowed a page from Marie Antoinette’s play book. No, she didn’t urge citizens to eat cake. Saldana just told the Public Safety Committee that "I absolutely support responsible gun ownership . . . when they are going through the proper permitting process.”
But unlike most states, California’s concealed carry permit statute grants complete discretion to sheriffs and police chiefs as to whom to issue such permits. As a result, in practice, concealed carry permits are not generally available to the citizens of California. So Saldana’s off hand “let them get permits” remark is about as insulting as a smiling 18th century French Royal waving her hand to the starving masses while whispering “let them eat cake.”
Saldana mistakenly claims that open carry is “an unregulated part of California law.” Like 42 other states, open carry has always been legal in California. But in 1968 the legislature banned the open carry of loaded guns in incorporated areas and the parts of unincorporated territories where the county has banned all shooting. No other state besides California requires openly carried guns to be unloaded, requires gun owners to submit to police inspections of their firearms, or has enacted so many other complicated regulations on gun ownership.
Moreover, Assemblywoman Saldana does not propose to “regulate” open carry - she aims to essentially extinguish it. If she merely wanted to “reasonably regulate” open carry through a permitting scheme, she could easily do this by amending the relatively obscure rural County Sheriff open carry permit process at California Penal Code Section 12050(a)(1)(A)(ii) to become both (1) non-discretionary and (2) available to citizens statewide.
Adding confusion to the matter, the popular press has mischaracterized Saldana’s AB 1934 as banning all open carry in public while allowing private property owners to set their own open carry policies. This is false, but understandable, considering that Saldana’s 9,996 word bill adds even more text and complexity to California’s already lengthy and opaque firearms laws.
Surprise surprise, Saldana’s bill allows open carry of handguns in vehicles throughout California. Further, both loaded and unloaded open carry of handguns will remain legal in public places in unincorporated territories where the county has not banned all shooting. And as AB 1934 only pertains to handguns, gun owners in urban areas like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco will effectively be forced to carry rifles and shotguns in public if the bill passes.
And remarkably, AB 1934 actually strips private property owners of their current right to allow open carry on their own land. Privately owned land is presumptively a “public place” under California law. As Justice Richard Aldrich of the California Appeals Court recently ruled in People v. Strider,
“[p]laces of business and parking lots on private property, open to the general public, have consistently been held to be public places . . . [as is] the area outside a home in which a stranger is able to walk without challenge. . . . The term public place generally means a location readily accessible to all those who wish to go there . . . . The key consideration is whether a member of the public can access the place without challenge.”
So anyone who owns a business, a home with a yard, or any other land, even a farm or ranch, should be concerned about AB 1934 because absent physical barriers or guards, the business or land is considered a “public place” under Saldana’s bill.
In 2008 the United States Supreme Court held that handguns were constitutionally protected self defense tools, reasoning in part that they can be pointed at an assailant “with one hand while the other hand dials the police.” In the past few weeks Arizona legalized unlicensed concealed carry, and Oklahoma’ Senate voted to legalize open carry. In fact, firearm restrictions are being repealed in most states this year. Yet in California, the legislature is actually considering denying citizens their onlypractical right to bear a handgun.
Various bills to ban open carry in California have failed in the 03-04, 05-06, and 07-08 legislative sessions. The California legislature should likewise now reject Saldana’s AB 1934, a bill she admitted in a press conference to introducing only because California gun owners recently dared to bear arms in her district.