Proposed Open Carry ban has both sides up in arms

Photo from Bay Area Open Carry,

Back in March, I wrote about Bay Area Open Carry, a loose group of local supporters of the right to carry an unloaded, holstered gun in public. In the past few days, the BAOC Twitter feed has been buzzing in response to the state Assembly’s passage of AB 1934 this past Tuesday.

Now, it’s not often that I connect Disney stories with major themes in legal and political happenings, but the first line from “Peter Pan” comes to mind when I think about the significance that AB 1934 will have on the public’s relationship with guns:

“All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

AB 1934, the bill that would ban open carry in public, still needs to pass through the state Senate and the governor’s office before it’s enacted into law. However, it’s already been the trigger for a number of vocal and opposing viewpoints around the blogosphere—viewpoints that are rooted in a historical debate that boils down to the question: do guns in the hands of citizens promote or threaten personal and public safety? It’s a question that the United States has been dealing with since the formation of the country, and it’s one that we keep rehashing.

Most recently in 2005, San Francisco banned possessing, selling, distributing, and manufacturing firearms in the city, only to have that ban overturned three years later in 2008. The reversal neatly followed the previous year’s overturning of a similar, 31-year ban in the nation’s capital. And today, all eyes are on Chicago, the last major US city with a sweeping handgun ban. Currently, Supreme Court justices are debating whether the Windy City’s 28-year ban on handguns violates Second Amendment rights. That decision should be made by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, we Californians are having recurring conversations of our own about the practical and constitutional implications of an open carry ban.

In what might be déja vu for the city, a panel that included Emeryville Police Chief Kevin James, UC Berkeley Boalt Law School Professor Frank Zimring, and Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California convened in San Francisco last week to discuss AB 1934.

Siding with Paredes is Yih-Chau Chang, press secretary for the Responsible Citizens of California, the non-profit organization developed out of the statewide Open Carry movement. Chang authored an online petition against AB 1934; the petition already has close to 1500 signatures.

Chang, a self-described former gun-control advocate, is confident that a real ban on open carry will not come to pass in California. In fact, he believes that the Supreme Court will ultimately reverse the ban in Chicago, providing judicial reasoning to strike down AB 1934 should it come to fruition. Then, gun control and rights debates would no longer center around vague discussions of practicality and impact—it would all come down to interpretation of the law.

Chang explains in an email that the case in Chicago, McDonald v. Chicago,

“nearly perfectly mirrors the [District of Columbia] case and the likelihood of the US Supreme Court ruling against McDonald in this case is extremely slim. A ruling against McDonald would essentially render their 2008 Heller decision to be invalid.”

Meanwhile, across the table, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Campaign doesn’t think that strong gun control laws will be jeopardized should the court decide in favor of McDonald.

Whatever happens in Chicago, both supporters and opponents of AB 1934 feel like they’re making progress here in California. Both sides will meet again at the Commonwealth Club, which is hosting an Open Carry Debate with AB 1934 author Lori Saldana on June 17 at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Hall.