Extra resources for students of State and Local Government 180, an upper-division GE class in the Government Department at Sacramento State University
Saturday, October 22, 2011
SF Chronicle: New open handgun law riles activists, say they'll carry rifles
Handgun law riles activists - they'll carry rifles
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco ChronicleOctober 21, 2011 01:43 PM
Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Michael Macor / The Chronicle
The press secretary of the gun rights group Responsible Citizens of California, Yih-Chau Chang with his Sig Sauer P226 .40 Smith and Wesson sidearm he openly and legally carries on his belt, in San Leandro, Ca., on Thursday October 20, 2011.
SAN LEANDRO -- Now that a new California law banning the open carrying of pistols is loaded for action, the big guns are coming out.
Rifles, that is. And shotguns.
Gun owners who are upset that the anti-carry state law will go into effect Jan. 1 intend to start packing their biggest heat in open as often and as visibly as they can, beginning with a gathering in San Leandro today.
They expect at least 50 gun-toting Second Amendment enthusiasts to show up on Hesperian Boulevard at Bayfair mall from noon to 1 p.m. From target-plinking .22-caliber rifles and .270-caliber deer-hunting weapons to 12-gauge shotguns that can blow a gaping hole in a wall - expect any or all long guns that are legal to own in California, organizers say.
The point is to be provocative enough to spur action by the courts or legislators to repeal the new law and restore the right to pack unloaded pistols in the open.
"People are really upset about this law, and if they won't let us carry handguns, we just have to defend ourselves with the next thing available," said co-organizer Yih Chau Chang of Dublin, who intends to bring his unloaded pump-action shotgun to today's rifle meet-up. "This just shows that here in California, our gun-control laws have gotten out of control."
Gun opponents say this new tactic, which follows last year's open-carry displays of handguns by many of those now promoting rifles, is reprehensible.
There will be change, all right, they say - but not the kind the gun advocates want.
'Alarms the public'
"Actually, this kind of event is an invitation to ban long rifles in public now," said Juliet Leftwich, legal director of Legal Community Against Violence, a gun-control group founded in San Francisco in response to the 101 California St. massacre of 1993 in which nine people died.
"Open carrying of any guns, pistols or rifles alarms the public and it wastes law enforcement resources while they have to monitor the people carrying them," Leftwich said. "It would be best if it were totally banned."
Motivation for tactic
The law spurring this new tactic is AB144, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed Oct. 10. Introduced in January right after the shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the law forbids anyone from openly carrying handguns in public.
Previously, Californians could tote handguns any way they wished, in holsters or in their hands, as long as they were unloaded. Violation of the new law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
California is the fifth state, including Florida and Texas, to outlaw openly carrying pistols. The District of Columbia also forbids it. Thirty-three states allow unrestricted open carry, and 12 require permits.
Gun advocates say the California law is doomed whenever a lawsuit gets filed - and they say one will be - because two federal court rulings in the past year asserted the legality of open-carry rights. The rulings upheld rejections of several individual concealed-weapons-permit applications in San Diego and Yolo counties, saying the old open-carry law negated the need to pack a hidden gun.
Gun-control advocates say the gun-rights crowd shouldn't pin any hopes on those rulings.
They say the danger is too acute to play politics with, citing figures from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence showing that America's annual toll of 30,000 gun-related deaths far outstrips those of any other Western country. Britain, for example, experiences about 50 gun-related deaths a year.
Seal Beach rampage cited
Gun advocates say those same statistics just prove their point.
"What you will see if you restrict people's gun rights is more of what happened in Seal Beach last week, where people don't have the right to defend themselves," said Jeff Dunhill, an open-carry organizer who spent this week hunting elk in Colorado. He was referring to a rampage in which eight people were shot to death at an Orange County beauty salon, allegedly by a man involved in a child-custody battle with one of the victims.
"They are arguing that patrons at the nail salon in Seal Beach should have had firearms with them?" said Leftwich. "That's crazy."