A bill that would make it illegal for California residents to openly carry an unloaded firearm in public passed the State Assembly by a vote of 45-29 and will now go to the State Senate.
Current state law bans people from carrying loaded firearms in public, but in the past few years "open carry" advocates who wear unloaded weapons in coffee shops and other public venues have gotten increased attention in California.
The bill, AB 144, was introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, (D-La Canada Flintridge). If it were passed, violation of the law would be punishable with misdemeanor charges of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, according to Wendy Gordon, a spokeswoman for Portantino.
If the bill passes through the Senate it would then go to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval or veto.
Portantino has said that he introduced the bill at the request of several police advocacy groups.
“Open Carry wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching bad guys," Portantino wrote in a press release. "Instead, they are tied up dealing with frantic calls from the public about gun-toting men and women on Main Street, California."
Sam Paredes, the chief lobbyist for the Gun Owners for California group, told Patch in a January interview about the bill, that nobody has ever linked someone practicing open carry of causing a crime.
"It's a symbolic solution to a non-existent problem," Paredes said.
The bill has the support of the California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC). Lt. Ron Cottingham, the president of PORAC, said in a statement that police officers fear that the sight of an armed person could lead to an unfortunate accident.
“These people work in groups and they are trained on how to confront peace officers. It is scary for our neighborhoods and businesses,” wrote Cottingham. “It is not safe, and I fear a horrible accident could happen if something is not done about it. That is why PORAC supports AB 144.”