The California Assembly is moving closer to banning gun owners from being able to carry their unloaded weapons openly in public.
Over the last few months there has been an increase in the number of open carry rallies and meetings in Northern California. on Tuesday a committee moved closer to ending such practices.
Several dozen protesters took to the steps of the Capitol on Monday, guns in holsters and rifles strapped to their chests. The gathering was in part a demonstration of Second Amendment rights and a protest of a bill that passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. The bill would ban carrying an unloaded weapon in public and make California the fourth such state to do so.
It's an effort that doesn't sit well with some local gun owners.
"In my opinion it's a law that's been on the books for quite some time to allow open carry, it's never been a problem," said Ken Quarnberg of Valley Gun on Chester Avenue. "A lot of these politicians who are against it probably never knew about it and now that the whole subject has been brought up, suddenly it's a problem."
Open carry events at coffee shops in the Bay and Sacramento Areas made news in February, but such gatherings have also, in years past, taken place in Bakersfield, usually in parks.
"They're allowed to carry an unloaded firearm in public as long as they're not in a public building which is broadly defined in the Bakersfield Municipal Code," said Sgt. Allan Abney of the Bakersfield Police Dept.
The department does not take positions on pending legislation, but has responded to resident's reports of such open carry events in the past. Officers will make sure citizens are complying with the law in an effort to keep the peace. Abney suggests that anyone who chooses to openly carry in the city review the law before doing so, to make sure they're complying.
The open-carry ban proposal is backed by the California Police Chiefs Association, as supporters see it as a public safety issue. But opponents disagree.
"I'd rather have an honest citizen carrying an unloaded weapon in the public, then a criminal carrying one concealed," Quarnberg said.
The proposed bill, which passed committee by a four to two vote, would not impact carry and concealed laws if it is signed by the governor into law.
While the City of Bakersfield does have an ordinance regarding open carry weapons, the County of Kern does not.
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