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California Chiefs: Open Carry Is An Officer Safety Issue

October 11, 2011  | 

A northern California police chief at the center of the open-carry debate tells POLICE Magazine that the state's law enforcement community generally supports the ban that goes into effect Jan. 1.

With a stroke of the pen, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed Assembly Bill 144 that makes open carry of an unloaded handgun a misdemeanor punishable with a $1,000 fine and up to year in prison.

The bill garnered support from the California Police Chiefs Association and Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC).

Emeryville (Calif.) Police Chief Ken James, chairman of the police chiefs' firearms committee, tells POLICE Magazine that banning open carry makes the state safer.

"Police officers are trained to treat all firearms as if they are loaded," Chief James said. "If a subject makes a furtive move toward his firearm, you could have a tragic incident."

Under the existing rules, officers have the right to inspect any unloaded firearms carried in public, but can't question the carrier to determine if they are a felon or gang member without probable cause.

However, many POLICE readers who commented on our initial story or added responses to our Facebook page disagreed with the chiefs' association.

Retired cop Fred, on PoliceMag.com, called the bill "another unnecessary gun control law, and another step toward a handgun ban in California."

Also on PoliceMag.com, Rick said the decision wouldn't reduce crime, especially in light of officer layoffs and the state's plan to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

"Law enforcement officers know that criminals don't go around with their weapons visible," he wrote. "If the legislature passes [concealed carry] for everyone and not just for those fortunate enough to know someone, crime will go down."

PoliceMag.com reader J. Jones, who identified himself as a current assistant chief, said state lawmakers shouldn't be targeting law-abiding citizens.

"It's time for the politicians to wake up and realize that they need to hold criminals accountable, not law-abiding citizens," Jones wrote. "As police officers, we all took an oath to defend the Constitution, including the Second Amendment, for the people. We are servants of the citizens first."

Steve Ogaz, in a comment on the POLICE  Facebook page, pointed out that open-carry proponents have been law-abiding even when protesting.

"Here [in California], no arrest were ever made [of someone practicing] open carry nor any crimes connecting to open carry," Ogaz wrote. "Open carry did not take away [police] resources ... Sad when the citizens we protect are not given the rights to protect themselves when we cannot be there in time."

Mark Cirone, on Facebook, called the ban "yet another attack on our second amendment rights," and asked, "what law-abiding citizen would carry exposed and unloaded? The answer is not a very smart person."

Other officers said they supported the open-carry ban. Jon Real, a "Cali copper," called open carry a "stupid" practice.

"By the time someone approaches the victim, they can't load, draw, and use their weapon by the time the suspect shoots them down," Real wrote. "On top of having a dead victim, now I have another weapon on the streets."

Related: California Chiefs Back Open-Carry Ban

Tags: Open Carry, Police Chiefs, Gun Control Advocacy


Comments (26)

Displaying 1 - 26 of 26

Rob @ 10/11/2011 6:33 PM

I'm not for laws banning open carry. There could come times when it might be necessary. Open carry depends on the judgement of the person who is exercising that right. Openly carrying an unloaded handgun puts the pistol packer at a severe disadvantage when a thug who happens to be armed comes into the picture. I wish that all 50 states could have concealed carry laws like Arizona or Vermont, but until then, California needs to get with the program and allow law abiding, tax paying citizens the right to carry firearms for defense of self. Then, California might get a little safer. Then again, California ought to do, or undo.....

Joe @ 10/11/2011 6:36 PM

California is addressing the wrong issue. The criminals don't carry weapons in the open. Only law bidding citizens carry an unloaded weapon in the open to and from a shooting range or hunting. California is constantly addressing the wrong issues..... You need to start with addressing your illegal alien issue and then and only then should you work on other issues. You are supporting so many illegal aliens you cant afford to operate your state. Passing useless gun control laws for all law bidding citizens is a waste of time. Your gun control laws don't stop criminals. Your only hurting law bidding citizens but you know that cause you do it all the time don't you.... You all are missing the issue!!!

From TEXAS

TimFromLA @ 10/11/2011 6:46 PM

Again, Jared Loughner should be a reason to have a 2 minute background check. Don't ban guns for good people, ban guns for criminals. If they really want to carry conceal, then have a background check. And if you think it's impossible? Did you know the Army knew he was mentally incapable of possessing and/or owning a firearm?

Jared Loughner unable to enlist in Army because of drug use
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2011/01/loughner-unable-to-enlist-in-a.html

Now tell me, had Arizona done a background check, they would have known he was mentally incapable of owning a firearm. This is NOT gun banning, but one of many safety measures to prevent what happened in AZ. I know of NO officer in this board who would disagree with me. Because if they do, they are NOT an officer.

RetiredCommander @ 10/11/2011 6:47 PM

I hope the California cops feel safer tonite as they think back through all the criminals they arrested in the past that were carrying guns openly. Come on are California cops really that out of touch with reality? Did they forget there is at least one gun present all the time...the one they bring with them. Maybe to make things safer the cops should disarm that way there would be no reason for the bad guys to carry guns. hmmmm.

DSoldier @ 10/11/2011 7:12 PM

I am a current California Lieutenant and do not agree with this ban. I wish the media would quit intimating that the Chiefs of Police speak for the rank and file. They are typically polititians and don't necessarily represent the opinions of the cop on the street. Cops typically support the second amendment and dont involve themselves in the political aspects of L.E.

Sam Haakinen @ 10/11/2011 7:25 PM

The Chiefs' dishonest stance is especially sleazy in the context of current law, in which CCWs are given as a perk to bureaucrats. For example, in Los Angeles, newly-hired Asst. DAs are given carry permits, as a perk. And no training or testing or knowledge is required; I have seen Asst. DAs who have a CCW permit but have never busted a cap, and cannot tell you whether their pistol is loaded, empty, or even fully assembled. Meanwhile in LA, CCWs are issued as favors to political cronies, judges, and people who donate to political funds.

The current system is, of course, as crooked as the Chiefs' organization. California not only needs open carry, but an honest "shall issue" law in which bureaucrats and political buddies do not get any special treatment.

John A. Hugya @ 10/11/2011 8:40 PM

As a former Chief of Staff for a Congressman who was a life member of the NRA I have to state that this country has to start being American again. I wore a badge for 37 years in local, state, conservation and the military. I was the only active Police Chief with 10 officers, 6 men and 4 women in a small PA town while still
working on Capitol Hill. I'm not an advocate of open carry unless you carry to hunt and fish or work on the range. This is an officer safety issue and scares the hell out of most local citizens. If California did not act like they were part of Mexico, they would liberalize concealed carry for the law abiding citizens instead of the
select few who get permits by political pull. My Congressman was a
sponsor of HR-218, the LEOSA Act. for active and retired police. I worked on that one-enjoy it!

Gene @ 10/11/2011 10:05 PM

Let me begin by saying that I served with one of largest law enforcement agencies in the nation. Today, I am retired after serving 36 years in law enforcement and the fire service. Police officers are the servants of the community they serve. They merely carry out the laws of the land. Most of the time they carry out the law by taking a report after a crime has occurred. California's oppressive gun laws are making criminals out of law abiding citizens. Banning open carry was a travesty and denies honest folks from the only form of self defense they have since Police Chiefs and most sheriffs will not issue a concealed license except as political favors and for selected citizens, leaving the average citizen defenseless. I find it appalling that our government is abetting the sales of weapons across the border to violent criminal drug cartels while denying a firearm for self defense on the street. The police chiefs who supported AB144 should take a class on Constitutional law. Disgusted in Los Angeles.

rottiedog @ 10/12/2011 3:52 AM

I have two takes on this issue having been sued by these open carry jerks and spending many months in an IA investigation for doing my job and acting on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. First, I believe this law will ultimately be deemed unconstitutional as the 2nd amendment is a right of the citizens. When done right most OC people are polite and make a notification to the agency that they will be "in the area." The bad seeds don't do this, as was my case, and on top of that they are overly boisterous and looking to cause a fight for there "youtube moment." This makes them look like loose cannons and is why Jerry Brown signed this law at the behest of the Chief's of Police Assc. It causes a legitimate officer safety issue when they act like they did in my case. I am all for open carry, I see little problem with it when done like most OC organizations. All I ask is that the courts and the law allow me and us to properly ID the folks to ensure they are legally allowed to carry (no criminal record or other disqualifying issue) and then go on your way. That is the fallacy with our current E-check law. We have plenty of gun control laws, we don't need more and we don't need this one. We just need to ENFORCE the laws currently on the books. We also need the OC crowd to recognize they are creating a serious public safety issue and just do as the cops ask, ID yourself, allow us to check you out to make sure you're not a felon and then you'll be on your way. Simple as that.

rpb @ 10/12/2011 6:52 AM

Wow, what is wrong with open carry of a loaded firearm by law abiding citizens? The criminal element is not concerned about

open or concealed carry, if they want to carry a firearm they will.

Why would anyone open/conceal carry on unloaded firearm, this is

just setting the potential victim up for failure. I have been working the streets for over 30 years in law enforcement, the only gun packing individuals I have a concern about are the criminals who don't give a crap of anyone or anything.

Don't get me wrong an honest lawabiding citizen can go stupid and us their firearm in a criminal or unsafe manner, but what would your rather have: armed law abiding citizens or armed criminals, to me the choice is obvious.

MKEgal @ 10/12/2011 8:03 AM

Some of the comments above are heartening, others dismaying.
I'm happy to see that at least some officers remember their oath to uphold the Constitution, & understand that the 2A is part of that.
I wish there were more of you, or you were all more willing to speak up.
And I'm glad many of you understand that criminals don't OC.

For the people who point out that UOC is next to worthless, I agree. The CA law should have been changed to allow loaded carry, rather than none.

Those who think that OC scares the sheep are wrong. Here in WI, the only legal way (for now) is OC, & I have videos of me shopping various places, even doing business @ my bank, while OC & most people don't notice. Of those who do, some smile at me. Videos made w/ a pen camera, so no, it wasn't obvious, & no, I didn't do it to make a point. I videod me going about my usual activities to show that it does NOT scare people.

(breaking into 2 posts)

MKEgal @ 10/12/2011 8:07 AM

(2nd part)
For this guy:
"All I ask is that the courts and the law allow me to properly ID the folks to ensure they are legally allowed to carry"

My being "legally allowed to carry" predates & is protected by the US Constitution. So the default position is that I am legal, until proven otherwise. (And BTW, laws don't allow, they prohibit.)

The way our laws work, the State must prove that I am NOT allowed to carry (or that I'm breaking some other law). Exercising a protected civil right is not & can never be a crime & cannot by itself be used as RAS of a crime or even the basis for an investigative stop.

So if I'm carrying too near a school, for example, & would be excused from that 'crime' if I have a permit, you could ask to see my permit.
But unless I'm in CA & I have a revolver & you can SEE the cartridges, you have no RAS that my pistol is loaded, so you can't investigate that 'crime'.

Do you stop everyone with children to be sure they're not sex offenders prohibited from contact with children, or the kids haven't been kidnapped?
Do you stop every driver to make sure they have a valid license?
Do you stop everyone to make sure they're legally in the country?

"most OC people are polite & make a notification to the agency that they will be in the area"
LOL!
Maybe for big events. Never for my day-to-day activities.
Do you expect notification that someone is going to church or having coffee with friends?

MKEgal @ 10/12/2011 8:17 AM

"they are creating a serious public safety issue"
How does my holstered pistol create any more of an "issue" than yours?
Is mine any more likely to jump out & begin attacking people?
Or are you referring to the occasional overreaction of some officers when they see a law-abiding citizen peacefully exercising her protected civil rights?
I think that's a training issue.

"just do as the cops ask, ID yourself, allow us to check you out to make sure you're not a felon"
See my previous post, about innocent until proven guilty.
You, as an agent of the State, must have RAS that I'm committing a crime in order to even make an unconsensual stop, let alone check me for wants & warrants or run the serial # of my pistol(s).
The peaceful exercise of a civil right is not a crime.

If you've previously arrested me, or recognize me from a "most wanted felon" poster, that'd hold up in court. But since none of those apply to me, & I certainly don't do anything that could be mistaken for a crime, all you can do is ask to chat... friendly-like. And if I don't want to you can't coerce me.

(FWIW, if someone is friendly & not asking intrusive or inappropriate questions, I'm likely to chat, no matter who they're employed by.)

Rick @ 10/12/2011 9:02 AM

As a former Federal Officer with the USCG, I can say that I never feared citizens carrying firearms whether they were concealed, open or on a boat. I live in California and have been hassled by cops that are ignorant about the assault weapons law and thought my AR was illegal. They had to refer the matter to a Fish & Game Officer that "knew the law" because he was fresh from the Academy and said that my AR was legal. The cop said that it was for "my safety" that he had to check on the matter; like my AR was suddenly going to kill me because he didn't know the law!! Cops in CA were getting the memos and weren't drawing down on citizens just for carrying openly (unloaded), they were looking at other behaviors and the overall circumstances. CA LEO's are the only ones that I've ever worked with that had the mentality that citizens shouldn't carry weapons; a reserve Officer that I currently work with apparently has that view and it hasn't gone over well with the other employees that are former military and have firearms.

rottiedog @ 10/12/2011 2:00 PM

MKEgal. Why are you so angry? I asked simple questions and posed common sense scenarios. When cops encounter alleged OC people, the cops are at a disadvantage. They don't know who these people are, what their intent is and what their state of mine is. Officer safety is the hallmark of our profession and to throw all of that safety knowledge away simply because we are supposed to "recognize" an OC person as a non threat is pure lunacy. I grew up in an OC house, I love guns, I love the 2nd Amend, but with gun ownership comes great responsibility. Not all OC folks are mellow shoppers. Some are truly deranged anarchists who just want to prove a point at all costs. You tell me the difference between those two by a simple on sight viewing. These are people just like others, they are subject to violence in their personal lives, subject to restraining orders, domestic violence, have mental issues ( since alot of these people are returning war vets with PTSD), there are a host of problems with your assumption that if they are openly carrying, they must not be a threat because who in their right mind would open carry if they were not allowed to. As far as your assertion that this is not an public safety issue, in my city I have a number of businesses that have been robbed at gun point, multiple times. There response now to an armed robbery is to protect themselves by producing their own gun. I have had liquor store shotouts occur. What do you think would happen if an OC guy walked in to a place that has been robbed multiple times at gunpoint.

rottiedog @ 10/12/2011 2:00 PM

The OC guy is going to die. That's a problem. As I said, I love the 2nd Amend, all I asked is that the courts allow me to determine the wheat from the chaff. Let me spend 5 minutes to make sure the OC guy, or gal, is legally allowed to do so, let me protect my public by ensuring everyone is within the law. It's not that hard. If you have nothing to fear, fear nothing. Since my crystal ball has been broken for many years now, I must now

rottiedog @ 10/12/2011 2:04 PM

The above message is a partial response to a post. Please disregard as it does not show the post in context. I guess I lost the rest and am too tires to type it over. I will try to clean it up later. sorry

ronald @ 10/12/2011 9:18 PM

I agree with retired commander, if law enforcement were to disarm gang members would feel safer and would do the same:)

Horace @ 10/13/2011 12:38 AM

I really wish that the Chief's organizations would stop pretending that they "represent" the feelings of officers who DO police work. They used to, most of them, and it's sad that they so often forget from where they came!!

I can tell you that after 33 years in cop work, I never once feared a (mostly) law abiding citizen with a gun. 99.9% of the time, I knew they had a gun because they told me or I found it in a non-threatening location... This is not to say that I wasn't fully on guard each and every time. I can also attest to the fact that 90%+ of the guns I took from a person were guns that person would have used to kill me if they had felt they could have escaped. That's why they were carrying a gun in the first place.

I admit the following may be a slight generalization but I will say it anyway because in MY experience, it is true... by the time an officer reaches the rank of Lieutenant, he/she has become little more than a politician. Everything they do from that point, and many before that point, are directed toward their personal political agenda. Each subsequent promotion enhances that personal agenda exponentially. Imagine what so many of our Chiefs are like if that is true.

Chiefs, stop telling others what I think. You don't know because you have NEVER asked me, and likely don't care. Remember, you are now a lowly politician.

rottiedog @ 10/13/2011 3:29 AM

Okay. I'll try to finish off where I left off when I messed up my last post. I am a California police officer, have been for over 20 years. I have seen many gun laws and most are useless. They keep writing more laws and fail to enforce any of them. If they would just enforce the core laws on the books 20+ years ago, there would be no need for AB144. I love guns, I grew up in an open carry house. I had my deer rifle and shotgun proudly displayed on my gun rack in my truck in high school so I see the point of the OC crowd. However, there are certain OC people that mess it up for everyone else. They are anarchists who play the sovereign citizen card, and that is dangerous. They are abrasive and uncooperative, claiming they don't have to ID themselves or that they have no ID because they aren't required to. This is dangerous and an officer safety issue. All I ask is that I be allowed to ID you, make sure you are allowed to legally care a gun and then you can go on your way. Very simple. This is a dangerous world and no one knows who you are or you intent. Let us do our job. Let us protect the citizens. Let us go home to our families. Is that too much to ask?

c1ogden @ 10/13/2011 2:16 PM

Why are you guys surprised at this? Police chiefs are politicians and politicians are almost invariably corrupt. I've worked for two sheriffs and one was corrupt as hell. I've worked for three police chiefs and two of them were corrupt as hell. Politicians are only looking for job security and they know that an armed citizenry will reduce crime, negating the need for more cops, more jails, and higher taxes.

piepr @ 10/18/2011 3:57 AM

In light of all the reasons and sentiments for and against the ban. We are overlooking the Second Amendment and recent Supreme Court decisions. It is a form of gun control that will affect the law abiding citizens and not the criminals. And on the rise is the H.R 822 National Right to Carry bill in Congress currently which would provide for loaded carry most anywhere and in any state.

California's ban would not survive a Supreme Court challenge and it flies in the face of the Second Amendment. Handgun hunters and handgun competitors will likely be some of the groups affected.

As an LEO, I would rather see a known (on the outside) loaded as opposed to hidden. Seems some paranoia is occurring and as most have noted, the criminals don't carry in open view. Rottiedog does have a point where we should be able to do the quick check to determine if the OC folks are legal to carry and yes, there are a few "rotten apples" in every crowd.

What's mostly going to happen porbably is that this action will draw much unwanted attention and produce more OC folks in protest then there were before. We should not allow anything to infringe any of our Constitutional Rights. There has been to much chipping away at our rights. Anyone check out one of the United Nations agendas lately? They are working dilligently in the background to do away with firearms ownership in America.

Richard W. Koleff @ 10/18/2011 7:55 AM

WOW! The so called Police Executives are at it again. As a retired LEO of 34 years experience, the only bad guys That I've come across, never were carrying a weapon openly. After retirement, I settled in Florida because Wisconsin, being polictly correct was unfriendly toward gun owners. Me thinks that one of the reasons that the CCOPA doesn't like the open carry is that it dilutes their ability to control the issuence of CCW licenses to only the wealthy and policitally connected.. Personely I'd like to put all of them on a Polygraph to see where the truth lies. This crap that a majority of Officers supports this law, is a lie! Poll after poll in shooting magizines and LE magazines, show just the opposite. Untill these people come to their senses and start listening to the people, they will be considered crooked, liars and ambitious. Also refer to the article in this issue about the clowns selling weapons from their hot dog cart. 'nuff said and Stay focused.

Charles Nichols @ 10/24/2011 1:17 PM

What seems to have escaped the opponents of Open Carry is that by passing this law, California has made it easier to restore Loaded Open Carry to California. It is no longer necessary to prove that an unloaded handgun presents a "substantial burden" under the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals framework, as openly carrying a handgun, loaded or unloaded, is no longer legal.

The California legislature has created a mirror image of the Heller case. There are those of us who are raising funds for a Federal injunction against California's 1967 ban on Loaded Open Carry -> http://CaliforniaRightToCarry.org/Press/CRTC10212011.html

rottiedog @ 10/25/2011 3:13 AM

Charles, are you by chance from the Modesto area? And BTW, I believe, in my opinion, you are accurate as to the correlation to the Heller case. As I said earlier, After a number of years and a million odd dollars of tax payer money to defend Moonbeams mistake, I believe this new law will go the way of the Heller decision. Even though I had a bad experience with the OC crowd, this is not the answer. But there is a necessity for some court mandated public safety checks to ensure those who decide to OC are truly doing so lawfully. Without this there is too much room for abuse by those claiming OC privilege, like some mentally disturbed individual. I know, "It hasn't happened", YET.

Nick @ 1/21/2012 9:38 AM

Why do police need to question anyone who is openly carrying. Aren't all citizens presumed innocent. Does that not apply to gun owners in California, nor do any other 2nd amendment rights as far as I can tell one the many reasons the state is in its current condition,

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