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L.A. considers ban on open carrying of firearms

Garcetti asks for 'common sense' restrictions on guns. Critics call the 'open carry' statute a loophole that needs to be closed.

January 21, 2011|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti moved Friday to ban the "open carry" of handguns within the city limits, part of a renewed nationwide push for bolstered gun control laws following this month's shooting rampage in Arizona.

Under current California law, residents can generally carry legally owned handguns that are unloaded and kept in a visible place, such as a holster. Ammunition may be carried separately on a holster or elsewhere. It is illegal, however, to carry a loaded gun or concealed weapon — with exceptions for peace officers, permit-holders and other authorized individuals.

The state law permitting the "open carry" of unloaded firearms has come under new scrutiny in the aftermath of several recent high-profile shootings, especially the Jan. 8 attack in Tucson that left six dead and critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Critics call the "open carry" statute a loophole that needs to be closed.

The Tucson killings have also reinvigorated demands in Congress for tightened gun laws. However, efforts to bolster state and federal gun control laws will probably meet stiff opposition from the National Rifle Assn. and other well-funded groups.

In Los Angeles, Garcetti submitted what he called a "common sense" motion that asks his council colleagues to approve a citywide ban on the open carrying of handguns. In practice, the measure would largely restrict open pistol-packing to authorized law enforcement personnel.

"No one needs a gun on their hip when walking down the street or going to the store," Garcetti said. "The open carry of a handgun can be intimidating and threaten public safety."

Advocates of gun-bearing restrictions argue that the public display of arms — even unloaded ones — is a provocative act that stokes people's fears and often leads to the summoning of police, who may view gun-carriers as potential threats.

But critics of gun control measures cite the constitutional right to bear arms. A nationwide "open carry" movement has strongly resisted restrictions.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced legislation that would reverse current California law and generally ban the carrying of unloaded, exposed handguns in any public place or street. Under the proposal, violators could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Those exempt from the ban would include peace officers, range shooters and lawful hunters.

Gun groups opposed a previous unsuccessful effort to change the law, said a spokesman for Portantino, and are expected to weigh in against the proposal this time around.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles City Council unveiled a resolution expressing formal support for Portantino's effort.

The council is expected to consider Garcetti's citywide proposal Jan. 28. If approved, the motion would go to the city attorney's office for the drafting of an ordinance banning the open carrying of handguns in Los Angeles.

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