Supporters of Open Carry in California

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We urge you to oppose both Assemblyman Anthony Portantinos AB 144 (banning the open carry of handguns in public places) and Senator Ted Lieus SB 661 (expanding the California gun free school zone radii from 1,000 to 1,500 feet) for the following reasons:

1. The open carry of holstered handguns has always been legal in California - it is an old right, not a new threat. In fact, 43 states allow the increasingly common "open carry" of handguns in public, in most cases at age 18 without any permit - and only California forbids openly carried guns to be loaded in cities.

2. The US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) held that the Second Amendments right to "bear arms" guarantees "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." In 2010 the Supreme Court held in McDonald v. Chicago that states must also respect Second Amendment rights.

3. California greatly restricts concealed carry by granting Sheriffs complete discretion in issuing permits and requiring the applicant to show cause to exercise their right to discreetly bear arms; therefore the open carry of handguns is most Californians' only viable option to exercise their right to bear arms.

4. AB 144 effectively bans open carry of handguns even on private property - under California law, all private property is presumptively considered a "public place." As Justice Richard Aldrich of the California Appeals Court ruled in People v. Strider (2009), [p]laces of business and parking lots on private property, open to the general public, have consistently been held to be public places . . . [as is] the area outside a home in which a stranger is able to walk without challenge. . . . The term public place generally means a location readily accessible to all those who wish to go there . . . . The key consideration is whether a member of the public can access the place without challenge. And while AB 144 does exempt owners and possessors of private property from the open carry ban, all other persons remained banned from open carrying on such private property unless explicitly given permission by an owner or possessor who is not prohibited under law from possessing firearms. This safe harbor by permission exception is illusory because a person would have to prove that they had such permission and take the word of the grantor of the permission that she was not a prohibited person risks that no gun owner can afford to take.

5. Hunters, fishers, hikers, target shooters, and other travelers would be effectively banned under AB 144 from open carrying even on private land for lawful purposes as explained above in #4 no prudent gun owner would take the risk that the police or court would accept their word that they had permission to open carry on private land, nor could they trust the word of any grantor of permission that she was not a prohibited person.

6. Hunters, fishers, hikers, target shooters, and other travelers would be effectively banned under AB 144 from open carrying a handgun, even unloaded, in unincorporated areas of California where the County has not banned all shooting, because such persons could not prudently risk accidentally entering an area of the County where shooting (and thus under AB 144 even unloaded open carry) is banned.

7. AB 144 would bizarrely force citizens who currently open carry properly holstered handguns in public places, e.g., Starbucks in downtown Los Angeles, to carry rifles or shotguns instead for their own personal protection. We agree with the US Supreme Court which said in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that bearing a handgun has a key advantage over bearing long guns, i.e., that it can be held "with one hand while the other hand dials the police."

8. And SB 661 is just a camouflaged AB 144 for urban areas, effectively banning open carry by extending so-called gun free school zones from 1,000 to 1,500 feet to choke off freedom of armed movement, including in vehicles on public roads, and, according to the California Appeals Court in People v. Tapia (2005), even on a sidewalk which lies on your own property.

9. Open carry is not a risk to public safety but it does sometimes deter crime. A recent FBI study that essentially concludes that bad guys don't open carry (see Anthony Pinizzotto, et al., Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers, FBI (2006) (finding that violent criminals carefully "conceal" their guns and "eschew holsters") at http://www.forcesciencenews.com/home/detail.html?serial=62). Additionally, police in Georgia recently confirmed an instance of open carriers deterring an armed robbery of a Wafflehouse just by open carrying while eating some chicken fried steak and short stacks. See Open carry deters armed robbery in Kennesaw at http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-atlanta/open-carry-deters-armed-robbery-kennesaw (Captain Jerry Quan, the Commander for Precinct One, where the Wafflehouse is located, confirmed Matt Brannan's story as one in which the open display of a pistol deterred a well-armed robbery crew).

10. California police officials have acknowledged that open carriers do not threaten law and order. For example, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Phelps told the San Bernadino Sun that "gang members aren't known to open carry" (September 6, 2010). And Palo Alto, CA police Lt. Sandra Brown told the Mercury News that "we don't suggest that people panic, because there hasn't been a problem with open-carry demonstrations in other cities (March 5, 2010).

11. And finally, proponents of AB 144 and SB 661 are being disingenuous when they claim they support trained and licensed gun carry if they truly supported trained and licensed gun carry their bills would establish a state-wide shall issue open or concealed carry permit system like the vast majority of states provide their residents.

For the foregoing reasons, we residents of the State of California affirm and assert our opposition to AB 144 and SB 661 and urge the Legislature and Governor Brown to reject them both. We further call on the Legislature and Governor Brown to work together to greatly reform and simplify California's gun laws to be more like those of the vast majority of states which uphold the right to bear arms by allowing both open and concealed carry, and issuing any permits which might be needed to bear arms on a "shall issue" basis.

Sincerely,

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