LA City Council support ban on openly carrying guns

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Gun rights groups gather at Fort Hunt Park for an 'Open Carry Rally' on April 19, 2010 in Alexandria, Va. The groups gathered in a National Park area to publicly carry weapons as a demonstration of their constitutional rights to bear arms.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to support a proposed state law that would prohibit people from openly carrying an unloaded handgun in public.

The proposed law by State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from Pasadena, is a response to a growing "open carry" movement. Open carry activists have held meetings at coffee shops and restaurants across California with their unloaded handguns in their holsters in accordance with current law.

"I'm very concerned about the open carry movement. It seems to be expanding," said Suzanne Verge of the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Several people spoke in favor of open carry.

Miriam Fuller of Los Angeles told the City Council people should have the right to carry a gun to protect themselves against criminals and terrorists.

"The terrorists are coming and they'd just love to see us disarmed," she said.

Matthew Dowd of Los Angeles said people need to be able to carry guns during the "chaos" that would follow a natural disaster like a giant earthquake.

"People need guns because this place will go crazy," he said.

Members of the City Council dismissed such arguments.

"The carrying of weapons on one's belt wantonly in public places with children present is the most irresponsible sort of thing," Councilman Paul Koretz said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck supports banning the practice, which places police officers in the position of determining whether someone on the street has a gun to commit a crime or is simply exercising his or her rights.

In addition to supporting state legislation prohibiting people from openly carrying a handgun, the council asked the the city attorney to look into writing a law that would ban the practice on city property.

Activists who support California's current law that allows a person to openly carry an unloaded handgun have vowed to legally challenge any ban.

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