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Paladin
04-20-2010, 5:16 AM
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/04/18/MN2A1CRQ5K.DTL


'Open carry' backers, opponents stick to guns

Kevin ***an, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2010


Brad Huffman and Jeff Dunhill were grabbing coffee, as so many do in downtown Walnut Creek. They were at a Starbucks.

In most ways, they didn't stand out, dressed in their slacks and neat shirts, short hair trimly cropped. Heads would have never turned but for one thing - the bulky black pistols strapped to their belts.

Huffman and Dunhill, de facto spokesmen for the Bay Area's burgeoning "open carry" movement, sipped their cups and acted as if packing heat - unloaded, because carrying loaded guns is illegal without a permit - were the most natural thing in the world to do. Which, of course, it's not. In modern California society, at least.

And therein is the essence of their point.

Open-carry advocates are toting unloaded pistols in public as often as they can in an attempt to expand Second Amendment gun rights in this, one of the strictest gun-control states in the nation. Their opponents want to keep the right to pack those pistols in public as limited as possible.

The reaction to the pair at Starbucks the other day, when Dunhill wore a .40-caliber Walther and Huffman wore a 9mm Glock, gave an unusually visual representation of the firearms debate in America. A Pew Research Center poll last month had the country split down the middle on whether to restrict gun rights, and that's just how the Main Street cafe divvied up.

Some of the two dozen customers paid no heed, some smiled at the pair, and some glanced over disapprovingly.

"Do they really think they need a gun here in Walnut Creek?" said Kim Hale, a 36-year-old resident who was tapping at a laptop while the men drank coffee. "This isn't the Tenderloin. I just don't see the point."

Two tables away, fellow Walnut Creek dweller Rita Fant, 62, couldn't have disagreed more.

"More power to 'em," she said. "They look like reasonable people to me. Why not?"

Spreading the message

Advocates say that in the past year in California, there have been nearly 150 public gatherings of open-carry advocates - usually about a dozen, sometimes several dozen - plus countless more casual displays such as those of Dunhill and Huffman. The meet-ups, such as one held by a small group on Baker Beach in San Francisco in February, are intentionally benign affairs in which gun-wearing men and women hang out and chat with anyone who cares to about gun rights.

Occasionally, police stop them to inspect their weapons - and at times, such as at one small gathering in Redwood City on April 11, gun-control pickets show up.

Open-carry advocates say everyone should expect many more meet-ups and displays in the coming months.

Dunhill contends that the split opinions of those watching him are just a starting point for the conversation he and his fellow open-carry advocates want the state - and the nation - to have. He hopes that conversation ends with gun rights being expanded so broadly that anybody, anywhere, who can meet qualifications standards can pack a loaded firearm.

Actually, if the conversation goes long enough, it becomes clear that the movement's fondest wish is that Californians be allowed to carry guns not just openly, but hidden as well.

Thirty-four states now allow anyone who has a basic knowledge of firearms and no criminal background and is mentally stable to carry a loaded, concealed gun - the standard for permits that open-carry advocates want to be applied nationally.

Local officials' decision

Twelve other states, including California, leave concealed-weapons permits to the discretion of local officials. Illinois and Wisconsin ban permits for concealed weapons altogether. Alaska and Vermont require no permits - and Arizona will join them this summer, under a law signed Friday by its governor.

"This is as good a time as any to work on our Second Amendment rights, and probably a better time than most," said Dunhill, a 37-year-old insurance investigator who lives in Walnut Creek. "Listen, the threat of violence is always there, but given the current economic state, there are more desperate people. Not to mention the depleted police departments, because of budget cuts.

"There's a great need for self-defense. Guns provide that. Police cannot always be there, everywhere, to protect you. We are just saying law-abiding citizens need the rights to be able to defend ourselves the best way we can."

Gun-control advocates are aghast at Dunhill and his colleagues, and say their smiling personas and attempts to make public gun-toting seem normal are deceptive.

'Act of intimidation'

"This whole open-carry movement is an act of intimidation, a tyrannical minority that is pushing a culture of guns onto our society," said Karen Arntzen, California chapters coordinator for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's just part of the gun industry and NRA (National Rifle Association) agenda to push any gun, anywhere. It's very in your face."

Open-carry people may have some of the same goals as the NRA, the main gun rights group in America, but they say they work alone. Indeed, the NRA isn't openly taking their side. Spokesmen for the NRA did not return calls for comment, but in press statements the organization has limited reaction to the open-carry movement to vague support for Second Amendment rights.

"We are just a bunch of individuals standing up for our rights," said Huffman, a 27-year-old firearms safety instructor who lives in Martinez. "There's this assumption that everyone in open carry is a crazy redneck in a pickup. But look at me - I drive a Prius, and I'm gay.

"We have all sorts of people in this movement."

Locally driven

The national open-carry movement was started six years ago in Virginia by two gun-rights advocates. It spread, largely by word of mouth and the Internet, and reached California last year.

There are no anointed leaders locally, just coordinators of Northern California Web sites started over the past six months that have drawn nearly 2,000 members - and those who are happy to talk, such as Huffman and Dunhill.

People who post on the Web sites lean decidedly conservative or libertarian, but Huffman insisted that all views of gun rights are debated.

"You look at aspects of both sides, and you can make a reasoned decision," he said. "One thing to remember is that we don't think just anyone should be able to have a gun, just like not everybody should be able to drive a car."

He agrees with California law that bans people with serious criminal records or mental disorders from owning guns. And he said that even for someone who is packing in public, the first options for thwarting threats should be talking or getting away.

"A gun is a last resort for defense," Huffman said. "But you need to be able to have it."

Conflicting studies

Studies vary wildly on whether one of Huffman's main arguments - that people are safer with guns than without - is supportable.

On the one hand, there is John Lott, a researcher cited frequently by gun rights proponents and author of "More Guns, Less Crime," who says the probability of serious injury in an attack is four times greater for women resisting without a gun, and 1 1/2 times greater for men. He also says homicide rates are 127 percent higher in states that ban concealed weapons.

On the other hand, the Legal Community Against Violence, an influential gun control group founded in San Francisco in response to the 101 California St. massacre of 1993, contends that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide by at least 40 percent. A University of Pennsylvania study says people who are carrying guns are 4.4 times more likely to be shot during an assault than those who aren't.

The discrepancy doesn't stop either side from digging in its heels.

The Brady Campaign has collected 33,000 signatures asking Starbucks to follow the lead of Peet's Coffee and others in banning guns from their stores, to no avail. Starbucks said in a statement that company managers "recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding the issue of open carry weapons laws," but that local laws allow open carry and so Starbucks will not forbid it.

The most significant opposition to the movement comes from state Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, who is pushing a bill to forbid anyone from openly carrying an unloaded handgun in public.

"Even the Second Amendment says we must have a well-regulated militia," Saldaña said. "But right now there is no real regulation about carrying unloaded weapons around. You really have no idea who the person carrying it is - they could be a felon, could not legally own the gun, could be on parole. We need to change that. Anyone who displays a weapon is increasing the potential for a violent situation."

Police use caution

Those pushing open carry say they are sticklers about people being legally qualified before showing up in public with weapons, and police agencies, recognizing the legality of open-carry laws, have not prohibited any meet-ups.

But in January, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office took the step of issuing a statement noting that every time police see an armed person in public, they have to respond with extra caution - which can take officers away from other pursuits.

"Open-carry advocates create a potentially very dangerous situation," the statement said.

(continued in next post)

Paladin
04-20-2010, 5:16 AM
Deterrent or not?

Open-carry advocates note that even unloaded weapons are forbidden near schools, courthouses and other sensitive areas, and that the state's assault weapons ban is the strictest in the nation. They say they feel overregulated.

People who are nervous about seeing guns in public, open-carry advocates say, should help pass laws to allow anyone who can meet qualifications to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon most anywhere - with a few exceptions, such as on most campuses or in courthouses.

"Personally, I think everyone ought to have 16 hours or more of training before they could own a gun," Dunhill said. "If you are a law-abiding citizen who can meet the criteria, you should be able to have what you need."

The trouble with California, he said, is that it leaves concealed weapon permits up to the discretion of local sheriffs or police chiefs. And they're stingy. California, with a population of 36 million, has only 26,397 concealed weapon permits on record, according to the Attorney General's Office. Ohio, by contrast, with 11 million residents, has 199,423 permits on file.

San Francisco has only two active concealed-weapons permits. Alameda County has 132.

The great divide

"To limit permits so much is just wrong," Dunhill said. "The fact of the matter is, you are safer with a gun. Period."

The Brady Campaign's Arntzen couldn't disagree more, and there is bound not to be a meeting of the minds anytime soon, she said.

"The minute you enter a gun into a situation, you have the possibility of mass killings, and the potential for innocent people to get killed or wounded in a cross fire," Arntzen said.

She noted that 30,000 people are killed every year in the United States by guns, more than in any other industrialized nation.

"We have one message about that," Arntzen said: "Leave your guns at home."

2 sides to issue

-- Northern California Open Carry forum: sfgate.com/ZJNB

-- Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence discussion of "open carry" movement: sfgate.com/ZJNC

E-mail Kevin ***an at k***an@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Paladin
04-20-2010, 5:37 AM
This article reminded me to ck to see if CA DoJ-OAG ever got around to publishing the CCW stats for 2008 -- they still haven't. http://ag.ca.gov/firearms/statistics.php

They are now over 8 months late.

Big Jake
04-20-2010, 6:01 AM
Interesting. At least the article seems balanced!

patriot_man
04-20-2010, 6:08 AM
Two tables away, fellow Walnut Creek dweller Rita Fant, 62, couldn't have disagreed more.

"More power to 'em," she said. "They look like reasonable people to me. Why not?"


Wow. That's a pretty nice response

PaperPuncher
04-20-2010, 7:02 AM
On the other hand, the Legal Community Against Violence, an influential gun control group founded in San Francisco in response to the 101 California St. massacre of 1993, contends that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide by at least 40 percent. A University of Pennsylvania study says people who are carrying guns are 4.4 times more likely to be shot during an assault than those who aren't.

Really, this is the argument? How much more likely is it for these people who are not carrying a gun during these assaults to be assualted, raped, murdered, robbed, or beaten? I would rather be shot than raped, thank you very much. And BTW, do you think it is more likely that these people who have guns are shot at because the perp was met with resistance and had to fire in hope of escaping the situation with his life? Gee, I wonder. I will have to think about that for a bit.

In most ways, they didn't stand out, dressed in their slacks and neat shirts, short hair trimly cropped. Heads would have never turned but for one thing - the bulky black unloaded pistols strapped safely holstered in their belts.

Fixed that one

But in January, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office took the step of issuing a statement noting that every time police see an armed person in public, they have to respond with extra caution - which can take officers away from other pursuits.

I can see the headline now. "Police man lets murderer go during foot pusuit to question a man reading the newspaper at Starbucks while wearing an unloaded holstered pistol". Sounds pretty realistic, I can see that happening. Sure...

Lets bring a couple statements from the article a little closer together and see if they add up...

A Pew Research Center poll last month had the country split down the middle on whether to restrict gun rights, and that's just how the Main Street cafe divvied up.

Thirty-four states now allow anyone who has a basic knowledge of firearms and no criminal background and is mentally stable to carry a loaded, concealed gun - the standard for permits that open-carry advocates want to be applied nationally.

Nope, didn't add up to split down the middle for me.

That's all for now.

a1c
04-20-2010, 7:17 AM
I love how the writer's byline got censored by Calguns' stupid language filter.

taperxz
04-20-2010, 7:17 AM
I don't understand this whole approach. Folks that are against guns will be against guns and be appalled at the site of them in a coffee shop. They will not change their mind with talk of self defense.

If you had to compare what is going on with the state and 2A, It should be charted for those that don't understand why some want to have a firearm. The chart should exist with the 1A. You could then show those that have not been around firearms what would happen to them if the State of CA told you that you can't talk about anything political in an incorporated area. How about you can't go to the capitol and protest a vote. If you put in print how you think about a certain president or governor or other politician , you may be subject to a full bodily cavity search.

Any way, not trying to argue with any one, but it just seems logical to me that if our state government continues on this route, what right is going to be next in the next 100 years?

One other thing to keep in mind is people talk about guns and violence. I would think it would be fair to say that the simple freedom of speech has destroyed people around the world. The power of words to insight and the power of the pen, have the ability to change the world with or without firearms. Can you imagine the anarchy that would occur if one of our governments, fed, state or local tried to limit our freedom of speech? just a thought.

Stealth
04-20-2010, 7:25 AM
Saldaña said. "But right now there is no real regulation about carrying unloaded weapons around. You really have no idea who the person carrying it is - they could be a felon, could not legally own the gun, could be on parole. We need to change that.

Does Saldana know CA law? If you are a felon or on parole you can't own a firearm. And even if you were, would you be UOCing at a starbucks in public? Obviously these are law-abiding citizens.

Anyone who displays a weapon is increasing the potential for a violent situation."

Slippery slope logic. Anyone who drives a CAR is increasing the potential for a violent accident. Yet we aren't making laws to ban cars. I wish I had the numbers but I think more people die to cars each year than firearms.

a1c
04-20-2010, 7:25 AM
One other thing to keep in mind is people talk about guns and violence. I would think it would be fair to say that the simple freedom of speech has destroyed people around the world. The power of words to insight and the power of the pen, have the ability to change the world with or without firearms. Can you imagine the anarchy that would occur if one of our governments, fed, state or local tried to limit our freedom of speech? just a thought.

Keep in mind that a lot of people don't understand the 1A either. And that many of them wouldn't mind it if suddenly the government tried to censor speech for, let's say, neo-Nazis or white supremacists (see some threads in OT recently, where some of our very own Calgunners seem to suggest those people should be censored), not understanding the very spirit of the First Amendment.

Similarly, a lot of people in the public don't understand the spirit of the Second Amendment. Hell, in here we can't even agree on it (should CCW permits require training? Should open carry be allowed eveywhere? Should grenade launchers be restricted to military and LE?). There is a lot of work to be done, and we must thread carefully.

Manic Moran
04-20-2010, 7:46 AM
Nope, didn't add up to split down the middle for me.

Population-wise it may well be. I'm fairly sure the population of Illinois alone is higher than that of Wyoming, North/South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, Vermont, Rhode Island, Idaho, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Maine all put together.

NTM

paul0660
04-20-2010, 11:18 AM
The most recommended comments are pro 2A:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/04/18/MN2A1CRQ5K.DTL

tboyer
04-20-2010, 2:52 PM
One of the two individuals who were interviewed for the article, self identified has “gay”.
Thus showing that the RTBA movement has broad base of support that defies stereotypes.

boxbro
04-20-2010, 3:45 PM
I love how the writer's byline got censored by Calguns' stupid language filter.

That's just *** :whistling:

Can'thavenuthingood
04-20-2010, 4:01 PM
I thought it was a fair and balanced article presenting all sides equally.

It wasn't a screaming, terrified 'oh my God they got guns' hit piece.

Perhaps this will become a campaign issue where ALL candidates will have to actually take a side without waffling or dancing around the issue.


Vick