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Gun owners backing 'open carry' law run into dilemma in Redondo Beach

A city ordinance prohibits guns in public parks, and the city attorney says the pier is a park. The gun-rights advocates see it as a commercial district, but they don't push the issue.

August 08, 2010|By Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times

A group of gun owners who gathered Saturday on the Redondo Beach Pier to extol the virtues of the 2nd Amendment found themselves confronting a different hot-button legal issue: Redondo Beach Municipal Code 4-35.20 (a).

Passed by the City Council in May, the ordinance prohibits guns in public parks. The city attorney says the pier is a park. Members of South Bay Open Carry, an organization that promotes a California law that allows people to openly carry unloaded weapons, say the pier is a commercial district.

What's more, they contend that the city's ordinance oversteps state law by adding parks to the types of public venues where open carry isn't allowed, such as schools and public buildings. The two sides have been going back and forth on the issue in recent days.

At high noon Saturday — actually 10 a.m. — about a dozen gun owners were escorted by about a dozen police officers, who showed them where they could and could not go with guns on their hips.

Although the gun owners disagreed with the city's interpretation of the law, they said they weren't going to push the issue Saturday. Once that was settled, the conversation turned to where there was a good place to eat. The police had several suggestions.

"It's stupid to be a martyr if you don't have to," said Charles Nichols, a member of South Bay Open Carry. "You don't have to be arrested to bring a civil rights lawsuit" later.

Lt. Todd Heywood said that in 29 years as a police officer he had never encountered such a situation.

"Honestly, we're just trying to keep this as low key as possible," he said. "We don't want any problems. They don't want any problems. As long as they stay within the law, everything will be fine."

It was the second time in recent weeks that the gun-rights group had distributed fliers promoting 2nd Amendment rights and the state's open carry law. In July, they did so in Hermosa Beach while picking up trash.

"We're trying to raise awareness of the legislation that's pending that would ban people from carrying guns to defend themselves in public," said Harley Green, 24, of Hermosa Beach, who carried an unloaded 9-millimeter handgun.

A bill approved in the state Assembly would all but prohibit civilians from openly carrying handguns. Backed by the California Police Chiefs Assn., it still needs to be passed by the state Senate.

Saturday's show of support for the current open carry law went off without incident. When Jeff and Tammy Cude stepped across the line — and onto the pier — they did so without guns in their holsters.

They packed bananas instead. Jeff had written "Glock" on his.

"It's our little protest," he said. He wore a Mickey Mouse cap and a T-shirt depicting various types of handguns and the message "Celebrate Diversity." "This is all so ridiculous."

And although his banana wouldn't do much in the way of self-defense, it had other advantages.

"If I get hungry," Cude said, "I'll just eat my gun."

mike.anton@latimes.com

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