On January first, California’s AB 144 kicks in. As the new year begins, the Golden State’s city, county and or state police may arrest anyone openly carrying a handgun. Unless the citizen in questions is a police officer (duh). Otherwise, a California citizen who wishes to exercise his or her Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms must carry concealed. Oh, and they must have a permit to carry—a document whose provision depends entirely on the whims of their local constabulary. Does this mean California’s Open Carry movement is doomed? That’s a loaded question . . .
Some say the end of open carry in California is a good thing, not a bad thing. Now that the “gun nuts” (a.k.a. “extremists”) have to put away their pistols, the state is more likely to get with the program re: concealed carry laws. It will be easier for gun rights advocates to argue that citizens living in Governor Moonbeam’s jurisdiction should have the same access to handguns for self-defense as, say, the majority of Americans. What left-leaning hoplophobes can’t see won’t hurt them (psychologically or electorally).
I doubt it. Keep in mind that the recently enacted law against open carry prohibits the public display of unloaded guns. (Openly carried loaded guns were already illegal.) In effect, the California legislature banned the idea of guns. That’s a bit silly. By the same token, openly carrying an unloaded handgun is a bit silly, too. Sure, an experienced operator can load their weapon quickly, but it’s a bit like downing a Viagra at a Glory Hole. Only the stakes are a lot higher.
Contra Costa Times columnist David Allen’s snarky coverage of a local town meeting highlights the ridiculousness—and ridicule—created by California’s twilighting [empty] open carry law:
An open-carry advocate said members of her group have run into trouble by carrying visible firearms into local businesses.
“We have been harassed by police, treated like common criminals,” Madison Jones told council members.
Jones, a blond, smartly dressed woman who was not packing heat at that moment, said 20 people wearing holstered handguns ate in a backroom at Vince’s Spaghetti last month.
That is, until “a swarm” of Ontario police burst in and told the group to take their weapons back to their cars or leave. They left.
Jones said she and her group carry weapons to “defend ourselves” and exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“You mentioned `defending’ yourself. Are your guns loaded?” Councilman Jim Bowman asked.
When Jones said no, Bowman said: “So defending yourself isn’t an issue.”
Obviously not (/sarcasm). Bowman’s glib dismissal of his voters’ desire to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones and the lives of their community members is par for the course in California. If you need further evidence (i.e. if you want to get your blood pressure up), check scribe Allen’s humorous take on the constitutional showdown at Vince’s Spaghetti:
Mayor Paul Leon tried to inject a note of levity regarding the restaurant choice and the Old West-style holsters.
“That’s the problem,” Leon said. “We don’t like spaghetti westerns.”
Jones and her two friends in the audience weren’t amused, causing Leon to assure them the matter would be looked into.
He could have carried the analogy further. Imagine if, during an open-carry meal, a Vince’s server trips and spills a plate of spaghetti on a male customer. The man rises in shock and staggers into the dining room, white shirt-front stained red, and gasps accusingly, “He got me.” That could be bad for business.
It’s beyond unfortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court’s McDonald decision didn’t affirm Americans’ right to bear—as in carry—arms. American gun rights may be ascendent, but some of this country’s most populous states remain vehemently anti-gun. Decades of legal, political and cultural struggle lay ahead.
Meanwhile, Californians can still openly carry unloaded long guns. Will the state’s open carry advocates start bringing unloaded shotguns and rifles to restaurants—just to make a point? Count on it. Is that a good idea? You tell me.