Armed Black Panther Party members legally marched into the California state capitol in the 1960s, leading to the nation’s first repeal of a state open carry law.
Following ugly incidents involving three murders and armed thugs intimidating protesters in Portland and Wisconsin, it’s time to expand an open carry ban nationwide.
Amnesty International, the human rights organization, has become the latest to call for a national repeal of all “open carry” laws.
In 1967, California enacted a bipartisan bill known as the Mulford Act to repeal a law that allowed carrying loaded firearms in public.
At the time, the National Rifle Association of America, was a major supporter of the act.
Since then, 31 states have gone in the opposite direction. They allow open carry without any license or permit, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Another 15 states require a license or special permit to openly carry.
Law enforcement leaders in several major cities say municipalities should have to the power to suspend open-carry laws to protect public safety.
Currently, 15 of the 45 states that allow openly carried handguns give cities power to restrict those laws, according to a Reuters review of state statutes.
Federal law does not restrict the open carrying of firearms in public, although specific rules may apply to property owned or operated by the federal government, the group states.
Opposition to open carry has been gaining momentum since the shooting death of two people in Kenosha, Wisc. A 17-year-old right-wing Trump supporter carried a military-style semi-automatic rifle into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters.
The youth, Kyle Rittenhouse, now faces first-degree murder charges and other gun-related charges. Individuals in Wisconsin must be at least 18 to carry a weapon in public.
Open carry advocates say allowing individuals to carry loaded guns in public discourages violent criminals and allows citizens to intervene to prevent crimes.
But “law enforcement officers in Wisconsin and all over the U.S. have expressed concern over open carry laws in the past, as these policies escalate violence and endanger police and the public,” Amnesty International wrote in a statement.
Crime prevention is more the exception than the rule in open carry states.
Instead, right-wing armed thugs who fashion themselves as “militias” have brandished weapons during protests at state capitols and used them to intimidate protesters.
In June, members of the right-wing Patriot Prayer and Peoples Rights Washington conducted an armed rally against Washington state’s mask mandate in Vancouver, Washington.
Ironically, Black Panther Party members lawfully conducting armed patrols of Oakland neighborhoods triggered demands for an open carry ban in California.
Armed Panthers marched on the California State Capitol to protest the Mulford bill, providing the catalyst for its passage.
The measure was signed into law by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, a Republican. He favored a ban on assault-style weapons after he was elected President in 1980.
In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed a 10-year-ban on the sale or possession of assault-style weapons. Congress let the law expired in 2004.
Another watershed occurred in 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court reached a landmark decision on gun rights in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570.
It was the first ruling in the nation’s history to derive an absolute right under the Second Amendment for U.S. citizens to own guns. But the ruling limited ownership to a handgun for “home protection.”
The ruling concluded that states were within their rights to enact gun restrictions, such as background checks, waiting periods and bans on open carry and and assault weapon sales.
Likewise, states must specifically authorize open carry by statute.
In Wisconsin, where the murders took place, residents 18 or older are allowed to openly carry loaded firearms, with few exceptions, even if they don’t have a gun permit.
In Oregon, open carry is legal statewide without a concealed handgun license, except in public buildings. But cities can impose restrictions. In Portland, for example, the guns must be unloaded.
Nonetheless, on Saturday (Aug. 31) Aaron J. Danielson, a member of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group, was shot and killed in a confrontation with another armed man.
Danielson was carrying a handgun, bear spray and a baton-style club when he was shot by a self-proclaimed “antifa” protester.
“Open carry laws, especially where no permit is required to carry, endanger the public and should be repealed. The U.S. is failing to protect people’s right to live and to protest safely,” Amnesty International said.
Opponents argue open carry laws waste police resources. Citizens routinely report armed individuals when they appear in public.
In the Wisconsin shooting, Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha from his home in Illinois and joined other armed men to protect a gas station, according to police.
He was caught on cell phone video walking through a crowd of protesters with his semi-automatic weapon. Cell phone footage showed a him shooting into a crowd of protesters as others chased him. He was later arrested at his home.
The battle over open carry laws is raging in several states, both pro and con.
In Florida, a bill is pending to allow open carry without restrictions. Right now, a permit is required.
In Oklahoma, a petition drive is underway to put a state referendum on the ballot banning open carry. Previous legislative efforts have failed.
In Mississippi, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called for a repeal of Mississippi’s Open Carry Law, after two children, 11 and five, were shot in killed in a one week span.
He said the law makes it impossible for police to remove illegal guns from Jackson’s streets and stokes an environment of fear and intimidation.