SACRAMENTO (AP) — California would bar the public display of rifles and shotguns in most cities and towns, under a bill approved by the state Senate on Monday.
The measure responds to gun rights advocates who took to openly carrying unloaded long guns to protest another bill that became law last year. That measure prohibited the public display of unloaded handguns.
The ban was sought by the state police chiefs association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents local, state and federal law enforcement officers. They said it was causing confusion and alarm for officers and citizens who couldn't tell if the guns were loaded.
"The problem right now is we have those individuals who are brandishing shotguns, as well as rifles, in the public arenas. It's been a threat to police officers," said Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who carried the bill in the Senate.
"A police officer is not sure if you are the bad guy or if you are the good guy," added Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino.
The bill, AB1527, makes it a misdemeanor for a person to carry an unloaded long gun in a public place in incorporated communities and in some unincorporated communities. It includes exemptions for hunters, members of the military and others, and the practice would still be allowed in rural areas.
The bill by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, passed the Senate on a 23-15 vote and returns to the Assembly for final action on Senate amendments. Portantino also carried last year's ban on openly carrying handguns. He said it became clear the ban needed to be extended after gun rights advocates showed up at a police fundraiser carrying long guns.
It's already illegal to openly carry a loaded gun in California. Opponents said the ban on openly displaying unloaded weapons is an attack on rural Californians, despite exemptions for hunters or those bringing their guns to shooting ranges or gunsmiths.
"There's a lot of innocent people who merely tote their firearms to where they need to go," said Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows. "What crime is this going to solve other than further curbing the rights of the law abiding who follow the rules."
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, called the measure "an attack on rural California" and accused urban lawmakers of imposing their will on his rural constituents.