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Angry Summer Obama protest with rifle.JPGThe Assembly Public Safety Committee approved on party lines today two controversial gun bills that failed last session, including legislation targeting the "Open Carry" protest movement.

Assembly Bill 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public. The bill language contains a number of exceptions, including exemptions for peace officers, military gatherings, gun shows and hunting.

Former Democratic Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña introduced similar legislation last year in response to reports of gun brandishing people gathering in public places to protest gun-control laws. An amended version of the bill failed to make it out of the lower house before the end of the legislative session.

Portantino said the practice of open carry has "created an increase in problematic instances," alarming and frightening passersby and needlessly draining law enforcement resources when officers are called to respond to reports of armed people.

"Open carrying of weapons is something that belongs on a Hollywood movie set, not on Main Street or Starbucks. You don't need a sidearm in order to buy a cheeseburger," he said.

Opponents countered that the ban would leave law-abiding citizens with no option for exercising their Second Amendment rights if they are also denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They argued the open carry movement has not led to any altercations that would merit the ban.

"Show me any instances where there has been a problem where the person carrying the arms openly has been arrested for any reason. They don't have any," Ed Worley of the National Rifle Association said. "It makes people uncomfortable, but that's the nature of a free society."

The Democratic-controlled committee also approved Assembly Bill 809, a revival of a previous effort to require that gun retailers report the same records of sales for long guns that they currently collect for handguns. Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who authored the bill, said the legislation would standardize reporting procedures and aide law enforcement. Opponents said the change would create an undue burden for gun owners and retailers.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this Monday, Aug. 17, 2009 file photo, a man carries a military style AR-15 type rifle during a Barack Obama opposition rally in Phoenix. (AP Photo/ The Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz, File)


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