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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, called the bill "another unnecessary gun control law, and another step toward a handgun ban in California."

Also on, 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." 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

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