Federal gun law is no doubt on our minds: This year’s controversial Supreme Court rulings have authorized individual handguns and signify landmark legislation in constitutional law — not only undermining bans in Chicago and D.C., but also upsetting the legal world’s long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment. But while all this is happening, California is waging its own battle on gun control. It’s called the Open Carry Movement, and yesterday afternoon, both sides engaged on State Street
On Tuesday, 50 or 60 people collected in front of the Starbucks at State and De la Guerra Streets largely in support of the pending AB 1934, Loris Saldana’s (D-San Diego) legislation that would prohibit the open carrying of guns in public places.
Then there is the question of Starbucks. California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee had earlier released statements prohibiting open carry of guns, and Starbucks, when approached, said it would allow customers packing heat.
Open Carry protests have cropped up at Peet’s, Starbucks, and CPKs across the state: notably in San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, according to the cities’ respective local papers.
Are corporations expected to take a stance for or against state law? Expecting concurrence with state law is requisite, expecting opposition isn’t. Mayor Helene Schneider said, “We have no problem saying ‘no shoes, no service,’ why can’t we say ‘no guns, no service?’”
Current California law prohibits the open carrying of loaded guns — although ammunition, as long as it’s unattached from the weapon, is allowed. It also prohibits concealed guns without a permit. If one does decide to carry a gun, a vigorous understanding of the law is necessary: For example, you can walk into a Starbucks, but you can’t walk into a post office. Moreover, in Santa Barbara County, concealed gun permits are “impossible” to get, according to Open Carry advocate, Alin Terieur.
Like many protests, the goals were local but the conversations were global: The protest’s purview was to criticize Starbucks for its compliance and push AB 1934. However, the conversations that ignited across sides were grander: crossfire about the Bill of Rights, the Framers, and what it means to be an American citizen.
The Coalition Against Gun Violence hosted the event, with support from Mayor Schneider and former mayor Marty Blum. They were joined by three or four Open Carry advocates, who saw the event in passing and came back with flyers and guns, evoking the First Amendment in defense of the Second.
You’ll know an Open Carry advocate when you meet one; they wear their heart on their sleeves and their politics at their waist. Two were particularly recognizable. Alin passed out photocopies of Open Carry literature. James brought a rifle. “The Bill of Rights was meant to make the government fear us, not the other way around,” an anonymous third supporter said.
James explained how the rifle belonged to his grandfather in the Civil War. (He opted to leave the bayonet part at home.) “You’re on the right side,” he said to me. I told him I was only reporting the news, that I was neutral. James replied, “That’s the most dangerous thing to be.”