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Open carry banned as of Jan. 1

The bill banning the practice was signed into law by Gov. Brown Sunday.

October 12, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

California gun enthusiasts will be keeping their pistols not just in their holsters, but completely out of view, as Assembly Bill 144 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday.

The bill, which was introduced by Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) with support from law enforcement statewide, bans the open carry of unloaded handguns in California, effective Jan. 1.

“Open carry” is the term used to describe the carrying a gun openly in public, as opposed to “concealed carry.” Since becoming a state in 1850, California has permitted legal open carry of unloaded weapons. Unloaded long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, still may be carried openly under the new law.

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Portantino said that the decision to introduce AB144 came from a desire to address the concerns of law enforcement officials who told him that the current law was creating a dangerous situation.

“Law enforcement came to the Legislature and said, ‘we feel our men and women in uniform are unnecessarily put at risk,’” Portantino said.

Portantino said that the problem with unloaded open carry was that there’s no immediate, easy way to see whether a holstered handgun is loaded.

“When a call goes out that there’s a person in a parking lot or on a street with a weapon … law enforcement has to roll as if that gun’s loaded,” said Portantino. “That takes their attention away from other duties and it creates an unnecessarily tense situation.”

“Law enforcement thinks it’s a matter of time before one of these stops escalates to where somebody gets hurt,” Portantino added.

Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. headquarters, echoed Portantino’s concerns.

“For all law enforcement officers and community members, any type of weapon being carried open or concealed could appear as a threat to their well being and is regarded as a public-safety threat … not only for law enforcement, but for the general public, because they don’t know it’s unloaded,” Nishida said.

That’s not how gun rights advocates see it, however, said Yih-Chau Chang, of South Bay Open Carry. About 30 South Bay Open Carry members led a protest against AB144 in Old Town Pasadena on April 21.

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