Gun rights advocates bear weapons near mall

October 22, 2011 4:46:39 PM PDT
Gun rights supporters made a dramatic statement in the East Bay to protest a new state law: More than two dozen people went to a shopping mall with rifles and shotguns strapped to their shoulders.

It was a big attention grabber: The heavily-armed protesters gathered in full view of anyone who happened to be driving by. The demonstrators say they're upset at a new state law that will prohibit them from openly-carrying handguns in public.

The protesters gathered with handguns, rifles, shotguns and other weapons -- all unloaded, according to the demonstrators, which made their form of activism legal.

"I'm trying to protect my family and the Second Amendment says I can do that," one demonstrator said.

For about an hour on Saturday, the advocates gathered in front of the Bayview Shopping Mall in San Leandro. While supporters honked their horns, others who didn't like what they saw voiced their opposition.

"I got my kids in my car, and I don't like them seeing guns like that," a driver said.

The group 'Responsible Citizens of California' protested a newly-minted law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that makes it illegal to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. The law, however, still makes it legal to carry around unloaded long guns, including shotguns and rifles.

"This is a direct reaction to what our government officials did in Sacramento," said open carry supporter Adnan Shabab. "We're not out here trying to intimidate anyone...we're just saying our government is making life difficult for us. We're willing to stay within the law."

Another supporter, Russ Allen, said he won't carry a handgun in public starting Jan. 1, but did say he may begin carrying a long gun he has at home "because we're allowed to do that."

Police in San Leandro quietly watched the demonstration from a distance. Some spectators didn't like the idea of seeing civilians carrying so many weapons.

"I think it's a little bit scary," said Oakland resident Craig Clark. "When you go out in public -- go into public places like Starbucks, even to a 24 (Hour Fitness) here, you don't want nobody carrying a gun."

"Anytime you see people in a suburban environment with a bunch of guns, it's kind of scary," said resident Mark Wagner.

After the event, demonstrators walked across Hesperian Boulevard and piled into a KFC restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink. Their weapons were exposed for all to see.

Starting Jan. 1, openly carrying a handgun would be a misdemeanor offense.

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