California Governor Jerry Brown, who owns three guns, said that his decision to ban the open carrying of handguns was based upon advice of law-enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
In a statement, Baca said: “For law enforcement officers and community members, any type of weapon being carried, openly or concealed, could appear as a threat to their well-being and is regarded as a public safety threat.”
California Assembly Bill 144, the open carry ban law, written by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D), makes it a misdemeanor to carry an exposed and unloaded gun in public or in vehicles.
California's new law carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for anyone who carries a weapon openly in public, though hunters, peace officers, and gun-show attendees are exempt. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Do stronger gun-control laws make a society safer or less safe?
“These are not going to reduce crime or gun violence … no others have done that and there are no statistics to show it,” says Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County in Arizona and a long-time crusader for individual rights.
“We have a long history of pretending that gun control in America is going to help us and it really hasn’t. I am sure they are going to keep trying stupid laws until someone realizes they don’t work and maybe we ought to try following the Constitution."
Mack was one of seven US sheriffs who sued the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court in 1994 challenging the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
Others disagree, saying that looser gun laws lead to an arms race.
"Every attempt to increase the firepower of law-abiding citizens increases the firepower of criminals, leading law-abiding citizens to increase their firepower from a handgun beside the bed to a handgun on the hip,” says Joel Jacobsen, assistant attorney general, criminal appeals division for New Mexico.
“More generally, I think this goes to the really basic question whether law enforcement should be a government function or an individual responsibility. The whole point of carrying a gun is to be able to use it, after all. It's not useful as a deterrent otherwise. So the arguments in favor of openly carrying guns on our streets are arguments in favor of using them in our streets.”
Brown signed another bill relating to guns, AB 809, requiring the state to keep records of rifle sales beginning in January 2014. Both signings were praised by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence 's California chapter.