Bay Area group advocates open carry of guns

January 5, 2010 6:41:40 PM PST
Walter Stanley was in the middle of telling an ABC7 News crew about his public effort to exercise his legal right to openly carry an unloaded gun, when Livermore police came calling.

"Put your hands on your head for me please," Officer Fuller shouted to Stanley.

With that, Stanley raised his hands to his head and faced a wall while Fuller and another officer examined the 9mm pistol he had holstered at his side. Down the block, a third Livermore officer with rifle drawn, served as backup while a fourth drove by in a cruiser.

"We had some citizens call in," one officer told Stanley before they returned his gun and sent him on his way. "We don't know if you showed up with a loaded gun or not a loaded gun, so we're going to come and check that," said Officer Fuller.

"I think that was a bit much," Stanley would later tell ABC7. "I don't think putting me up against the wall and putting my hands on top of my head is really the type of enforcement we're looking for here in the city of Livermore."

Tuesday's scene in downtown Livermore was just the latest twist for Stanley and the group "Bay Area Open Carry," a loosely-organized band of gun owners who staged a demonstration Saturday at a local coffee shop to publicize the fact that in most of California, it is legal to carry a weapon as long as it is out in the open and unloaded. The gun carrier also has to be at least 1,000 feet from a school.

Stanley carries his unloaded pistol on his right hip with two full ammunition clips on his left.

"I think it's kind of archaic," Livermore resident Grant Balfour told ABC7. He and a friend sat on a nearby bench watching while the officers frisked Stanley. "I don't see any Indians or cowboys running up and down the street. I think it's time to grow up."

"I think that you're asking for trouble if you walk around with an exposed weapon on your hip," Livermore resident Yvonne Douglas said. "Because I think it would be easy for someone to take that away from you."

Others were more sympathetic to Stanley and supportive of his gun-toting efforts.

"He has every right to. It's in our constitution," Livermore resident Tiffany Swensen said.

Stanley says the Open Carry Movement has another demonstration planned for a restaurant in downtown Walnut Creek on Feb. 6.