California Bans Open Carry of Guns

Last night, California Governor Jerry Brown scribbled into the wee hours of the evening, signing into law more than 100 bills put onto his desk by the California legislature. This caps off a legislative session that saw a total of 464 bills signed into law, which means that the full force and power of the California government can now be used keep citizens safe from everything from school bullies, to self-service checkouts at the grocery store, to overly strenuous apprenticeships.

Among the bills signed into law is AB 144, which prohibits the "open carry" of firearms under threat of a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Reason.tv explored this very issue a few months ago, talking with the bill's author Anthony Portantino, as well Sam Wolanyk, an Open Carry advocate and head of Responsible Citizens of California.

This morning, a representative from Portantino's office e-mailed the following statement from the assembly member:

“I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing the importance of this public safety measure that will help reduce the threat to the public and to law enforcement. ... ‘Open carry’ wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching criminals or solving crimes.  Instead, when officers are called to investigate the display of a weapon on an ‘open carry’ proponent, it takes their attention away from where it’s needed and puts folks at unnecessary risk.”

This, of course, is inconsistent with the fact, which Portantino concedes at 4:45 in the video, that Open Carry has resulted in exactly zero known deaths or injuries in California. 

Regardless of any public discomfort with the Open Carry movement, which is an easy target for ridicule in the media, what makes this law of particular interest to gun rights groups is the fact that concealed-carry weapons permits (CCWs) in California are issued under a May-Issue regime, which means that the decision to grant or deny a CCW is left entirely to the discretion of the sheriff in each county, as opposed to the much more common Shall-Issue rule, which requires permits be granted to anyone who passes a basic background check and skills test. According to Wolanyk, the May-Issue rule results in corruption and cronyism.

"If you haven't made a healthy contribution into the Sheriff's reelection fund, you're not getting a concealed weapons permit," says Wolanyk.

Because this new law makes it nearly impossible for the average California citizen to carry a weapon, Wolanyk says that a Constitutional challenge is likely imminent. But Wolanyk, whose encounter with and later lawsuit against the San Diego police led to an early version of the anti-Open Carry bill, says that California's new law won't stop him from exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"There are 28 separate exemptions to this new law," he says. "And I can guarantee you that a guy like me is going to figure out how to satisfy at least one of those exemptions, and I can further guarantee that the police aren't going to know any of them."

For more on how a guy like Wolanyk finds "exemptions" to rules, see below.  

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Jesus, how did we ever function without a law and/or regulation for everything?

  • Id||

    It was chaos.

  • Jerry Brown||

    What I mean to say is, "some human problems don't require a law".

  • Jerry Brown||

    Except when it's time for me to spend 400 million shoring up the new base. (wink wink)

  • Trespassers W||

    Jesus, how did we ever function without a law and/or regulation for everything?

    It was great. Putting children to work in the slaughterhouses created a lot of leisure time, which was used to assemble lynch mobs and take laudanum mixed with raw milk.

  • ||

    San Andreas really, really needs to have a spectacular, visceral, full metal gut belch with The People's Republic of California (America's Greece) go the way of Atlantis as a result.

  • kilroy||

    Another great reason to not visit California.

  • ||

    Or in my case, another reason never to go back to my birthplace. CA is shakier than their quakes.

  • Bacon Avenger||

    Another in a long list of reasons never to go to California.

  • k2000k||

    It's really too bad, good weather, hot babes, government can really rule anything. I mean, rememer when California used to be cool?

  • k2000k||

    *ruin

  • Warty||

    The lawsuit this produces will be interesting. The 9th circuit will clearly uphold the law, so we might see a Supreme Court case out of this.

  • fish||

    The lawsuit this produces will be interesting.

    Why? The Open Carry folks would almost certainly lose.

  • ||

    It'll be interesting, because a combination of no open carry and no concealed carry would be tough to defend as consistent with the right to bear arms. When a state has one or the other, not so much.

    The twist here is that its theoretically possible to get a concealed carry permit, but in practice these permits can't really be considered to allow a reasonable opportunity to bear arms.

  • ||

    California isn't the only state with a ban on open carry and may-issue CCW. NY in particular comes to mind, and they've had such laws for decades.

    The laws overturned by Heller/McD banned firearms in the home too. They didn't say that shall-issue CCW was necessary to uphold the 2nd amendment.

  • Id||

    Hold on. They are taking away self-checkout registers? I DON"T WANT TO INTERACT WITH PEOPLE.

  • Pip||

    I shop at Cub Foods. The checkout girl I had last Saturday was manning the register on her own for the first time. She was very unsure about produce. She though snow peas were green beens and zuchini was squash, etc. I made out like a bandit. I called the store, told them what had happened, and suggested that they spend a little more time politely educating her about produce.

    They also have self-checkout, which I never use, but it would seem to me that as far as produce is concerned, it's a system ripe for fraud. Makes me wonder if they lose more than they think they are saving by not having to pay for a cashier.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    zuchini is squash...just sayin. Although I imagine you meant yeallow squash or butternut or some such.

  • H. Protagonist||

    They're just taking away your ability to buy alcohol at them. So, in my particular case, effectively banning them.

  • GSL||

    Many grocery workers are unionized in California. Make more sense now?

  • ||

    $10 says "creating jobs for people" was listed as one of the justifications for the change.

  • Ben P.||

    $10 says "creating jobs for people" was listed as one of the justifications for the change.

    I'll take that bet. All the interviews with store execs and spokesfolk that I've read point to two main factors: Only 1 in 5 customers felt comfy ever using the bleedin' things, and they were loss-prevention sinkholes which allowed for rampant fraud and abuse by customers.

    In short, the market at work -- an idea was tried, embraced for use, and failed and was replaced.

  • ||

    Hawaii is even more draconian than CA. I was actually astonished at how bad it is, and that there's been no challenge yet.

  • nonwo||

    Agreed Kalf. is definitely a place to leave. Hawai'i is even worst and the so-called state even has a 2d Amend. in its const., unlike Kalf. yes there has been challenges but it's a police state prison isle.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    ‘Open carry’ wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching criminals or solving crimes.

    Pot! Small amount of pot! Get out of the car, dirtbag!

  • Xenocles||

    The obvious implication being that LEOs have to do these searches at every opportunity and that investigating crimes or answering emergency calls are both just second tier mission areas.

  • A Serious Man||

    Wouldn't checking one's concealed carry permit be as simple as checking one's ID?

    Of course this wouldn't be an issue if people would just mind their own damned business and not call the cops every time they see a person with a weapon.

  • ||

    That's asking too much, in California. The "guns are icky and scary unless they're on the hip of Officer Friendly" constituency is truly massive, here.

  • A Serious Man||

    I know, I live in Orange County, which is slightly more tolerant of guns, or at least the residents are.

  • Zeb||

    I think that the change had to do with openly carrying without a permit.

  • juris imprudent||

    Actually, it was open carry of an unloaded concealable firearm. The Open Carry activists were in compliance with the previous law - but that was too scary for those with poorly functioning urethral valves (i.e. the average CA voter/politician).

  • nonwo||

    I mainly agree. However, the CCW permit is really a back door registration and contract for a state privilege that can be taken away at will. The question is why convert a right to a privilege held by the state?

  • ||

    Children- guns are scaaary, mmkay?

  • ||

    My teenager isn't scared of the guns she shoots!

  • Tony||

    But I am....and isn't that what really counts?

  • nonwo||

    Yes see how effective the gubbermet school/fool system has been in dumning down the people and making them fear everything non-governmental. The brain washing is spectacular.

  • ||

    Don't underreact!

    The last thing in the world we want is for people to become "habituated" to guns, or to stop assuming anyone not a cop has no legitimate right to possess or carry a firearm.

    Fear sells; especially in politics.

  • Paul||

    “I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing the importance of this public safety measure that will help reduce the threat to the public and to law enforcement. ... ‘Open carry’ wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching criminals or solving crimes.

    Playing devil's advocate here, it's possible this has truth to it.

    Based direct knowledge, cops tend to go apeshit when they see a gun, and will bring in 40 patrol cars in to check a guy washing his car in his driveway with a gun on his hip. Meanwhile there are two rapes, a bank robbery, kidnapping and murder going on two blocks over.

    Essentially, the cops created this situation and passed it down to us.

  • ||

    This is why I've become ultra-paranoid about reaching up to get shit in the store; if my shirt pulls up too much and exposes my gun, I'm worried that some pussy will call the cops who will then come in as if a hostage has been taken and shoot me.

  • ||

    It happens once in a while. There was that ex-service member who was gunned down by swat after a clerk in a store spotted his concealed weapon. Happened in Nevada (inorite?), I think.

  • ||

    That's exactly why I'm paranoid.

  • Destrudo||

    Was it you that was the CZ fan?

  • ||

    I have a CZ 97B, and I love it for the range, but for carry I'm a complete Kel-Tec slut.

  • Destrudo||

    I had a CZ-75 but ditched it for a SIG 229. I'm a hammer fired / decocker guy.

  • ||

    Both of those are way too big and heavy. I can wear my P-3AT all day and not even feel it. If I want to go bigger, my PF-9 is still retarded light.

  • T||

    I'm still carrying a full-size 1911A1. At the end of the day, I know I've been carrying it around.

  • ||

    Why would you do that? That's retarded. You're retarded.

    There are so many compact carry pistols out there, even in bigger calibers. Shit, get a Kimber if you must carry a .45.

    Anyone try the Solo yet?

  • T||

    Epi, I've been shooting full-sized 1911s for over 20 years now. They work for me. I'm not gonna switch platforms at this stage of the game.

    I'm actually looking at a Sig P238, but more for size than weight. That Solo looks interesting, but I'm dubious about Kimber most days.

  • Buddy Bizarre||

    Pocket carry! I have a PF-9 & I only carry it in a pocket holster. Nobody has ever suspected.

  • Dello||

    +1.

    I roll a P-32 and can forget I'm carrying.

  • Paul||

    dude, that is fucking sweet. What's the reliability? Will it feed hollows as well as FMJ?

  • Paul||

    The CZ is sweet, by the way. Disambiguation and all that.

  • ||

    It will feed hollowpoints. It's been extremely reliable for me--it's a great gun--but it is a monster.

    Accurate as hell, too.

  • Destrudo||

    Yeah CZs are legendary. I don't think mine ever failed to feed or eject. Not once. I just decided mine was slightly too big and ugly. I hated the skinny form of it, like a beretta 92 or something. I'm weird about that shit.

  • Paul||

    I'm a little funny too. I go for the chunkier looking guns. I'm currently looking at the Ruger P90.

  • Destrudo||

    It's true the sig is also heavy Epi. I like a comparatively heavier gun; I'm a fairly small guy and the perceived recoil is way less than with a polymer. I rarely carry for long periods of time just because I can't at work or on campus, so the weight never gets to be an issue.

  • ||

    Check out the Para-Ordnance high capacity lines. That double-stack magazine means they have some junk in their trunk.

    I think the fat handle makes for easier felt recoil, too.

  • ||

    I totally understand; the aesthetics of the gun are very important to me. I will not buy a gun I think is ugly, no matter how good the reputation. Therefore, no Glocks for me.

  • Paul||

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I want a Sig 2021 with a .40 barrel. It actually fits my hand if I ad grips and an extended mag (gotta watch for the pinchy on the reload though, thats a bitch).

  • nonwo||

    must agree, everything is reliability. don't know about the occasional blow outs.

  • ||

    I purchased a P-3AT about 6 months ago and haven't regretted it. Great gun, although I did end up buying a magazine with grip extension. I've had better control with it since.

  • ||

    Kahr PM-40 in a back-pocket holster.

  • ||

    It shouldn't have happened, but the guy was high at the time. Look up the Costco gun incident.

  • T||

    You people make me glad I live in Texas. Even if somebody saw it, it wouldn't be a big deal in most places I shop. I just wish we could get open carry, because it's hot here in the summertime.

  • ||

    WA is actually very good on guns, and even has technical open carry, but Seattle has lots of people from other places, and you just never know. Plus, the SPD is fucking dangerous as hell.

  • Paul||

    This. It doesn't even take a gun to get shot by SPD in Seattle. Just a quiet constitutional down the street with something vaguely shiny in your hand.

  • Warty||

    That's only for filthy Injuns, though. Epi is a disgusting wop, which at least 20% of cops should be able to distinguish from Injun.

  • ||

    HEY YA HEY YA SPICY MEAT-A-BALL HEAP SPICY

  • Paul||

    which at least 20% of cops should be able to distinguish from Injun.

    But that would be profiling.

  • robc||

    In KY, open carry is guaranteed by the state constitution.

  • kilroy||

    That's sweet. Noted.

  • Paul||

    Washington has a frustrating, completely subjective catch-all in its legislation:

    "(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons."

    Essentially, if someone else sees my gun on my hip, and a signle person at that time and place feels intimidated or alarmed for their safety, I'm in violatio of the law.

    That makes Washington effectively a non-open carry state.

  • ||

    That is a headache of a law. I suppose when they ban open carry of long guns in 2012, the open carriers can work their way down the list. Swords and other blade weapons of any length are completely legal in CA to open carry.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    CO too.

  • R||

    You people make me glad I live in Texas. Even if somebody saw it, it wouldn't be a big deal in most places I shop. I just wish we could get open carry, because it's hot here in the summertime.

    You're going to be in a world of hurt if it happens around an LEO. Open Carry is expressly banned in Texas.

  • Kristen||

    Vermont scored 8 out of 100 on the Brady Campaign's "test". Texas sored 9. As in golf, the lower the score, the better for guns.

    Suck it, Texas!

  • Paul||

    if my shirt pulls up too much and exposes my gun, I'm worried that some pussy will call the cops who will then come in

    Trust me, they will.

  • Destrudo||

    This is also why you never tuck an erection up into your waistband.

  • ||

    Here in West Texas, you're more likely to get into a nice conversation about the relative merits of various guns.

  • ||

    I think the guy who took his clothes off at the airport needs a 22 year old strawberry blond apprentice who likes to wear Victoria's Secret!

  • robc||

    What Ive wondered is what happens if he shows up that way, as opposed to stripping at the time.

    Say you are headed to Barbados, like he was -- just show up at the airport in Speedos and flip flops (have close in your carry on, if you wish to wear more post-security).

    What would they do then?

  • robc||

    s/close/clothes/

  • sam wolanyk||

    well, the first time I did that, they wouldn't let me fly. that one will end up in federal court because they can't just make shit up like they did. of course i went back the next night in the same outfit and they didn;t say a word, even directed me to a metal detector instead of a porno scanner. Now I fly that way every time. Which is to say I drop my sandals and trench coat, go through detector in short-shorts, and then go to the men's room and change to street clothes. san diego TSA leaves me the fuck alone now. I won that won.

  • Dello||

    SWING!

  • Mike M.||

    Yeah, he's a real friend of liberty indeed, that Jerry Brown.

    Has he managed to come up with a statement yet regarding how he feels about the Fullerton cops who beat poor Kelly Thomas to death?

  • Fascist Cocksucker Brown||

    Public Safety, public safety.....

  • H. Protagonist||

    The long gun registry bill also got his signature. Hopefully this finally kills Reason's on-again, off-again infatuation with Governor Moonbeam.

  • ||

    OFFICER SAFETY

  • ||

    Odhinn I hate California. I wish I could hate California to death.

  • ||

    This carry laws are so asinine. In places like Ohio, where I now live, you need a permit to conceal carry, but not to open carry. It is a crime to carry concealed without a permit to do so and you are required to carry exposed without a permit.

  • robc||

    I think that is common in open carry states. KY is same way. The biggest worry for an open carrier (who doesnt have a CCDW permit) is that they will claim you are concealed. "Your jacket was covering your holster, you were concealed, to jail you go."

  • kilroy||

    That why you should open carry one of these:

    AR-15

  • Destrudo||

    My apartment is about a block and a half from where I park my car, and I've definitely strolled that distance a few times with a mossberg 500 slung over my shoulder.

  • T||

    Depends on the state. Some states are squirrely about rifles.

    I, of course, live in Texas, where you have to have a permit to concealed carry a pistol but you can walk down the street with a rifle or a shotgun as long as you don't point it at anyone.

  • romulus augustus||

    Penna. permits open carry but I never saw anyone do it until recently. I got in line in a suburban supermarket and the older guy in front of me had a glock strapped on. Obviously wasn't a detective or plain clothes. I looked at him and smiled. No one hassled him as he paid and carried out his sacks.

  • Zeb||

    Didn't CA law already forbid openly carrying a loaded firearm?

  • T||

    Yes. So the open carry guys had a magazine in a pocket and a gun out in the open.

  • kilroy||

  • Cytotoxic||

    Call me naive but shouldn't a 2nd amendment based challenge kill this shit pretty easy?

  • ||

    You're so naive.

  • cynical||

    Was he talking about a court challenge or just shooting the government of California?

  • Cytotoxic||

    ...

  • ||

    :D

  • ||

    Heller didn't say open carry was a 2nd amendment right; indeed it didn't even say that carrying weapons outside the home was. I really don't see Kennedy supporting an opinion that it does say either of those things.

  • cynical||

    "Heller didn't say open carry was a 2nd amendment right"

    True, but presumably you would have to either allow open or concealed carry, as disallowing both is just a ban.

    "indeed it didn't even say that carrying weapons outside the home was"

    SCOTUS can be as derp as they want, but "keep and bear" seems pretty clear cut. It protects ownership and storage (keep), but also protects carry (bear).

  • Charles Nichols||

    Way back in February 2009, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals applied this part of the Heller decision to California. The US Supreme Court did not get around to applying all of Heller to the states until 2010:

    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER

    Opinion of the Court

    Likewise, in State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann. 489, 490 (1850), the Louisiana Supreme Court held that citizens had a right to carry arms openly: “This is the right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and which is calculated to incite men to a manly and noble defence of themselves, if necessary, and of their country, without any tendency to secret advantages and unmanly assassinations.”

    Open Carry is the right enunciated in the Heller decision which stated that states can ban concealed carry.

    The lawyers at NRA/CRPA/SAF/CalGuns think that the passage of AB 144 will make it easier to obtain "shall-issue" CCW. I've asked each of them to cite even one US Supreme Court case where the Court has found an otherwise lawful ban (concealed carry) to be "constitutional" because there is a separate law prohibiting constitutionally protected conduct (Open Carry).

    Not a single one of these lawyers can cite even a single case. Is it any wonder that they keep losing their CCW cases?

  • ||

    Open Carry is the right enunciated in the Heller decision which stated that states can ban concealed carry.

    No, Heller addressed possession of an operable firearm in the home. It didn't touch on open carry.

  • Fascist Cocksucker Brown||

    Vetoed this one:
    http://www.wired.com/threatlev.....-searches/

    He wants the police to search your cell-phone photos, contacts, call logs, messages etc.

    Cavanaugh, I know he's your buddy but don't you dare defend him over this one....

  • Fascist Cocksucker Brown||

    Somehow, I cannot imagine Meg Whitman vetoing this one....

  • Neu Mejican||

    New Mexico: No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms. Art. II, § 6 (first sentence enacted in 1971, second sentence added 1986).
    1912: "The people have the right to bear arms for their security and defense, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons." Art. II, § 6.

    [Self-defense right explicitly protected.]

    California got it backwards.

  • nonwo||

    the banning of the concealed arm is really unconstitutional. "Carry" means exactly that or "bear". We shouldn't be retreating away from our rights just because some idiot judge(s) don't understand plain Am. English. It is up to us to show him the errors of his ways. We the people determine what are our rights.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement