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The state Senate has approved legislation today that would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public.

Assembly Bill 144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, targets the "open carry" movement, marked by gatherings of people displaying their firearms in public places to protest gun-control laws.

The bill language contains a number of exceptions, including exemptions for peace officers, military gatherings, gun shows and hunting.

Democratic Sen. Kevin de León said the measure would stop a practice that alarms the public and creates a "potentially dangerous" situation when law enforcement officials or members of the public are unsure whether an exposed gun is loaded or not.

"This is not the wild west," the Los Angeles Democrat said, adding, "How discomforting can it be if you walk into a restaurant, to Starbucks, to Mickey D's, wherever it is that you may go to, and all of a sudden you see someone walking around with a handgun, and you don't know, can't discern if they're a law enforcement agent."

No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, criticized the proposal for "further narrowing peoples' Second Amendment rights."

"The Second Amendment is not a loophole," LaMalfa said, adding that open carry is "isn't a problem for anybody except for the gun grabbers that continually chip away and narrow our basic rights."

The bill was approved 21-18, with three Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the measure. The bill now returns to the Assembly for consideration of amendments added in the upper house.

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Assembly committee approves 'open carry' ban, rife records bill



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