Lawmakers push to outlaw carrying guns in public


The controversy began when open-carry advocates started gathering in public places like coffee shops and restaurants around California with their unloaded weapons exposed. While perfectly legal, the protest against gun control laws made some passers-by uncomfortable.

"I think that you're asking for trouble if walking around with exposed weapon on your hip," Yvonne Douglas said in January 2010.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee took the first step in banning the practice of open-carry in California for most people, making it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

It's just too close for comfort for average Californians; you don't need a weapon to buy a cheese burger, proliferation of side arms should be in a western movie, not Main Street California," Assm. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, said.

Often the open-carry protests prompt concerned citizens to call police, who say the gatherings drain their already stretched departments.

"A gun in a public setting has to be viewed by a police officer as a threat and as such, it takes our resources away to deal with that threat," Emeryville Police Chief Ken James said.

But open-carry supporters say the ban is unconstitutional, pointing out the Second Amendment gives them the right to bear arms to protect themselves.

"It is critical during states of emergency that people have the ability to defend themselves when police are not available," Gun Owners of California spokesperson Alany Herman Toller said.

Nicole Stallard, a member of Northern California Pink Pistols, says she needs a gun to protect herself because attack rates on transgender people are high.

"911 gets you police in minutes, in the meantime, you're dead or beaten," Stallard said.

The proposal heads to the appropriations committee next. A similar proposal last year cleared several committees but failed to get to then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk by the deadline.

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