California legislators passed a bill that makes it a crime to open carry any firearm other than a handgun in unincorporated areas where shooting is prohibited. Governor Jerry Brown has until October 15 to either approve or veto Assembly Bill 7.
With Gov. Brown’s mixed history with gun control, the fate of the Second Amendment in California seems to rest in uncertain hands. The new law-to-be has been hailed by some as the end of open carry in the state, but that’s not exactly correct.
The Fear of Tyranny in California
Calley Cederlof of Visalia Times-Delta explored the impact this law might have on rural areas in an article titled “The End of Rifles in Tulare county?” She leads the story with “California is one step away from outlawing guns in the rural parts of the state.” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux called his county “an agricultural and sport hunting country community,” and said that “the law-abiding people of this state are the losers within this bill if passed by the governor.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the boom in gun sales in 2016:
“Sales of semiautomatic rifles in California more than doubled this year, a dramatic increase gun rights advocates say was driven by the state’s aggressive pursuit of gun-control measures in 2016.”
Gun shops reported seeing more first-time buyers, and many suppliers ran out of guns to sell. It’s not uncommon for people to react to impending gun control legislation by buying as many guns and as much ammunition as they can before it’s too late, but the fear with AB 7 is that owning guns becomes pointless if you’re not allowed to carry them anywhere.
Fortunately, this new bill does not actually make it a crime to carry a long gun everywhere.
AB 7 isn’t a Ban on Long Guns
While making gun ownership, in general, a crime may well be the end-goal of these anti-gun politicians, that’s not what this bill does. Calley Cederlof missed the mark when she wrote that “AB 7 would eliminate the ability to openly bear arms anywhere in the state of California.”
The only thing this bill does is makes it a misdemeanor to carry a long gun anywhere in an unincorporated area (it’s already illegal inside incorporated cities, towns, and counties) where shooting is prohibited. According to the text of the bill:
“This bill would prohibit the carrying of, and make it a crime to carry, an unloaded firearm other than a handgun while in or upon a public place or public street within a prohibited area located within the unincorporated area of a county.”
The key is in the phrase “prohibited area.” It would not become a crime to buy such a firearm. It would still be legal to transport rifles and shotguns by vehicle, as this only applies to guns “outside a vehicle.” Though laws vary by county, Californians living in unincorporated rural areas can shoot on their own private property – or even on someone else’s land with permission. Publicly maintained hunting areas are not prohibited areas, and neither are shooting ranges. So, Californians are still legally allowed to shoot at home (depending on where they live) and can take their guns from house to vehicle, drive to a range or hunting area, and then take out their guns and shoot.
Running Afoul of the Second Amendment
Essentially, all this bill does is make it illegal to brandish a long gun in an area where it can’t be legally shot anyways. But make no mistake – this is still a gross violation of the Second Amendment, which states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
A quick examination of the language of this amendment shows no relative terms. “Shall not be infringed” leaves no room for interpretation, and there’s no “except clause,” either on the type of arms, who shall have the right to keep and bear them or to include any accepted forms of infringement. Therefore, carrying the gun itself falls under the bearing part of “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” which is not to be “infringed” in any way.
Aside from one proud gun owner showing a weapon off to another, which even Californian absolutely should have the right to do, there’s little enough reason to carry a firearm openly, loaded or otherwise, where it can’t legally be shot. But it still shouldn’t be illegal. This law is a useless one where public safety is concerned. The only purpose it could serve is to annoy gun owners and to set the precedent required for the next set of restrictive gun control laws in The Golden State.
The real danger here is the expansion of “prohibited areas.” If anti-gun legislators ever manage to do away with public hunting grounds or the right to shoot on private property, then AB 7 could be instrumental in the complete ban on all firearms other than concealed handguns.