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.