Capitol Alert

Is bill on governor’s desk a ‘nail in the coffin’ to openly carrying guns?

Gary Crain of Folsom fires a rifle at the Cordova Shooting Center in June in Rancho Cordova. A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would prohibit openly carrying long guns such as rifles in unincorporated areas where county supervisors already have banned shooting. Gun ranges would be exempt.
Gary Crain of Folsom fires a rifle at the Cordova Shooting Center in June in Rancho Cordova. A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would prohibit openly carrying long guns such as rifles in unincorporated areas where county supervisors already have banned shooting. Gun ranges would be exempt. rpench@sacbee.com

Gun rights activists have called a bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature or veto “the nail in the coffin” of openly carrying guns in California. But contrary to some claims, it doesn’t ban shooting and hunting in rural areas or most unincorporated county lands.

Assembly Bill 7, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would limit where California’s 6 million-plus gun owners can carry unloaded shotguns and rifles in urban areas not previously covered by a statewide ban on openly carrying handguns. Gipson’s bill passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature earlier this month.

It seeks to close what Gipson calls a “loophole” to a 2011 law that banned displaying handguns in cities and towns. The 2011 legislation was in response to Second Amendment “open-carry” activists bringing weapons into coffee shops and stores and displaying guns on city streets during demonstrations.

The legislation now on Brown’s desk would make it a misdemeanor to openly carry a long gun in an unincorporated area of a county, but only in areas where county supervisors have prohibited shooting firearms.

Most counties don’t have such shooting bans, and national forest lands, wildlife refuges, gun ranges and other areas where shooting is currently allowed wouldn’t fall under the ban. Gipson said he wrote the bill to address an open-carry protest a few years ago that occurred in his Los Angeles County district.

“It makes no sense to openly carry a long gun or shotgun in urban communities,” Gipson said. “It puts people in jeopardy – not only the people trying to exercise their rights – but also law enforcement is being placed in jeopardy as well as the general public at large in an urban community.”

Opponents say they hope Brown vetoes AB 7.

“This bill would be an enforcement nightmare,” said Jeff Volberg, a lobbyist for the California Waterfowl Association, a hunting group.

Opponents worry that someone could get arrested for carrying a long gun outside of a case if they were walking from his or her car to a gunsmith’s shop or gun range (both exempted from the open-carry ban) or while traveling to or from exempted forest lands.

Craig DeLuz, spokesman for the Firearms Policy Coalition, said the biggest issue is that in urban areas, such as in Los Angeles County, it would become almost impossible to carry a firearm – openly or otherwise – because local law enforcement agencies often refuse to give out concealed carry permits.

“For some, openly carrying a long gun is the only way in which they can exercise their right to bear arms,” DeLuz said. “Now that is being taken away.”

Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign or veto bills that passed the last legislative session.

California lawmakers and voters passed a slew of new gun and ammunition laws in 2016 that will significantly affect the state’s more than 6 million firearms owners. Gun dealers say the overlapping laws have created confusion.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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